Archive for the ‘mixed race’ Category


Biracial (1990s- ) means that you are mixed race, that your parents come from different races. Like maybe your father is black and your mother is white. Or your father is white and your mother is Asian. Etc. This post is mainly about those who are half-white and half-black, what used to be called mulattoes (a word that has fallen out of favour).

Americans like to fit people into races. “He’s black”, “She’s Asian” and so on. It makes them feel comfortable. It makes them feel like they understand you – even if much of that understanding comes from stereotypes. Race is part of how Americans make sense of the world and each person’s place in it:

  1. white
  2. Asian
  3. Hispanic
  4. Native American
  5. black

So biracial people kind of screw this up.

“Kind of” because the races in America have been mixing for a long time, in spite of whatever the Supreme Court has said, particularly between blacks and whites. So certain rules have sprung up.

The main one is the One Drop Rule. It says that if you look part black African at all then you are seen as black, period. The whites will not accept you as one of their own, while the blacks will.

That is why people like Halle Berry, Alicia Keys and Barack Obama all see themselves as black. They each have a white mother and a black father. That makes them biracial, but it is not how they see themselves.

But it is possible to be too black for the whites and too white for the blacks. This is particularly true if you are close to white-looking and grew up in a white middle-class neighbourhood and therefore “act white”.

These people in their school years often have an unhappy time of trying to fit in both worlds, failing at both, all along being unsure of who they are. By their early 20s they give up trying to fit into society’s little boxes and see themselves as biracial.

Rebecca Walker’s father told her that:

being black and white is better than being just one thing and screw people who can’t deal.

That becomes a common conclusion.

Back in Jim Crow days, they would have been black, no questions asked. Because they would have been cut off from their white families and so forced to grow up among blacks.

Blacks often see half-black biracials as denying their blackness, as putting themselves above blacks. That is not what they are trying to do. In fact, many see themselves as being both biracial and black. It is not about hating their blackness but about their different experience of life. Just as there is a black experience, so there is a biracial experience.

Whites often see biracial people as the wave of the future, as a sign that racism is going away, that because of them racism is on the way out. That is a bit wishful thinking that whites like to believe because it lets them off the hook.

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