Black, Biracial, Mixed, White, Other, Neither?

A dozen or so years ago, back in the days when we were just friends, my now husband introduced me to a guy he'd grown up with named Scotty. They'd gone to elementary, middle and high school together, and, as sometimes happens with people you grow up with, you lose touch till you run into each other.

Scotty had close-cropped, blondish-colored curly hair and greenish-blue eyes. His complexion was very much on the, as the saying goes, "light, bright and damn near white" side of things... and he was wearing a kelly green pair of polyester blend slacks, a matching green vest and a green hat.

Even though all I could think of was, "OMG, it's the ghetto Leprechaun!", Scotty wasn't dressing up for St. Patrick's Day. Nope, he was clearly all about big pimpin'.

Did I mention the man was also wearing a gun holster. An empty gun holster, but a gun holster nonetheless.

He proceeded to show us the scar on his belly where his last "bitch" had cut him, and, speaking in the most stereotypical Ebonics you can imagine, he told us how the fight with the girl had gone down. He had, "Youknowhaimsayin," and the n-word dropping every other second.

I was amazed at the caricature Scotty had so fully embraced. The word "overcompensating" came to me. Somewhere along the way, this guy had begun to believe he needed to prove that he was black. And being black to him seemed to mean being extra, extra ghetto, hard, thuggish, inarticulate and getting into fights with women who'd then cut his abdomen open with a knife.

Around the 500th n-word that came out of his mouth, I decided to bring up Scotty's very obvious biracialness, just to see what would happen.

His response was something like, "Nah, I'm not mixed! I'm black. Don't you recognize a real n**** when you see one?"

I recall that he put his hands on his empty gun holster, as if that was supposed to scare me. But I wasn't intimidated so I replied back, "You mean you don't have a white parent?"

I knew he did, and that his mom was white, but you would've thought I'd just made the most outrageous, insulting statement ever. Scotty's face turned a furious shade of red and he began swearing and rubbing his hands on that gun holster, but I didn't back down from my questions -- questions that were solely designed to poke holes in his, "I'm a real n****a!" persona.

Needless to say, our visit was cut short. I never saw Scotty again and haven't though about him for a few years. But this past Saturday afternoon at the Mixed Roots Festival, Scotty came back to mind.

You see, I started wondering what would happen if I stuck Scotty in a room with actress and filmmaker, Tiffany Jones. Her film is called the Mulatto Diaries, and sadly, like Scotty, Tiffany rubbed me the wrong way. She, and a few of the other biracial folks she interviewed in her film, came across like she believes on some level that being black means being ghetto, stupid, uneducated, lazy,uncultured, not being able to speak correct English and not having class or manners.

As I sat there and watched the film, I found myself getting annoyed. I half expected someone to say, "Being white is Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On" and blackness equals Three 6 Mafia singing "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp".

But unlike Scotty, who felt on his empty gun holster at the mere insinuation that he was anything other than black, Tiffany Jones seems to be bending over backwards in her desire to say "I'm not black."

This may not have been her intent but while watching Tiffany's film, underneath her assertions that she's "not black" or "just black", I heard someone saying, "I don't want to be black because blackness is inferior."

In my own experience as someone with one white parent and one black parent, I've met a few other biracial folks who act like they've been shortchanged by life because they were given a black mom or dad instead of two white parents. You get the sense that they want to say they're biracial, not necessarily because they want to acknowledge all aspects of who they are ethnically or racially, but, because they are, deep down, ashamed of their blackness and wish there was some way they could make it go away.

Tiffany's vibe took me back to the days when I'd hear other biracial girls telling girls with two black parents that they were better than them: better hair, better looking, smarter, less black. It took me back to why folks would meet me and say, "I thought you'd think you're all that just because you're mixed."

Yes, Tiffany can be as proud of her whiteness as she wants to be, but just as Scotty had to say over and over that he was "black", Tiffany announcing over and over that she's white lacks authenticity to me. To me, it's all about intent. Why do you want to be white? And if Tiffany can finally get the world to say, "Yes, honey, you're white!" will she be happier and more comfortable with herself?

I also think there's a difference between a healthy pride and an inherent sense of superiority. I am very very proud of being half Irish. If someone asked me to say I'm not part Irish, I'd probably draw a big shamrock on my face right in front of them. However, that pride does not and never will supersede the affection and downright admiration I have for my black ancestry.

I asked my husband what he thought of all this since he's known me since I was 17, and because he saw Tiffany Jones' film. He says, "You never tried to take your white parent and throw him under a rug and hide him, but you didn't go around wearing a t-shirt saying "my daddy's white" either. You were comfortable with it and it showed. And your comfort with it set the expectation that people around you better be comfortable with it, too."

He went on to say, "What was impressive about you when I met you was that you didn't didn't deny your whiteness, with the Depeche Mode and all that, but there was no question that you were black. You were the first mixed person I'd met where you seemed to get that being black doesn't mean you're not white, and being white doesn't mean you're not black."

We give lip service to it, but yes, there's only one human race. All of us are mixed. So am I black? Yes. Am I white? Yes. Am I biracial? Yes. Mixed? Yes.

And you are too.

Maybe you didn't grow up with one white parent and one black parent like I did, and that is DEFINITELY a different experience culturally -- stuff like seeing your interracially married parents get constantly asked, "Are you together?" But LOTS of white people reading this post have black heritage even if they don't know it. And pretty much every African American person reading this post has white heritage. My black husband is a descendant of John C. Calhoun... and so what??? On a day to day basis, he's STILL a black man in America who will have folks clutching their purses if he's walking down the street towards them.

At the end of the day, I'm more concerned with the progress of my soul than the label I put on my skin color. I'm not in the business of proving my whiteness, blackness or biracialness to anybody. I wish I didn't see so many other people attempting to do so, whether by behaving in ways they think make them "white" or by wearing a Leprechaun-inspired get-up and a gun holster.


Miz JJ said…
Interesting post. I do agree that biracial people like Tiffany just want to be white. Also, I hate when people say we're all humans. Of course, but that has not stopped us from dividing ourselves up based on race, language, ethicity, culture and/or religion. Race matters.
"At the end of the day, I'm more concerned with the progress of my soul than the label I put on my skin color."

Me too. Me too.

I've thought a lot about this in the last couple months. I have nothing articulate to say. Only that I hear you, I agree with you and as always, I'm grateful to know you.
Tafari said…
Liz, first off, it sounds like Scotty had/has psych issues. Any nigga runnign around in that get up with an empty gun holster that is not John Witherspoon (Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!) is fucked up in the head!

You know my wife is mixed & grew up in a house hold with 2 white parents. it was not until she was older that she realized that she was different & not the white princess that her mother imagined her to be.

When I met her, I felt like your husband did. She did not hide/deny/profess to be anything than what she was; a woman with parents from different races.

I will say that I think that because her parents are white regardless to how she self identifies is different than straight up sisters that I used to date.

Like MizJJ, Im not into this there is one race shit. If that was the case, they would not try to categorize us on applications etc.

We need to appreciate each other for our differences. This how harmonious diversity is achieved & appreciated.

Great topic!

Unknown said…
Oh Liz, you always make me cry!

As the descendant of raped black women maternally and of interacial relations paternally ~ I am the product of South Side Chicago Bronzeville when it was "South Park" or the "colored's" neighborhood.

You so beautifully put our struggle and love/hate relationship with ourselves.

I don't know what will ever come of things - and I don't know what it is like to be in both worlds but I can imagine thanks to your words.

Additonally, I guess it all doesn't matter until we can rest assuredly knowing that our little guys (mine is almost there) will not have to worry about: "he's STILL a black man in America who will have folks clutching their purses if he's walking down the street towards them."
This was AWESOME!!!!

In this day and age, regardless of my race (and I am white, as you know :), I'm like you - my soul is way more important than anything! I'm also teaching my kids to NOT identify with anyone based on what's on the outside, but what's on the inside! Unfortunately, ignorance will always be present in all forms because people are...well, just stupid.

Sounds like Scotty's parents, regardless of their race, should have taught him to be confident in who he was as a person not whatever he was *trying* to portray.
Jessalyn said…
I like both your & your husband's words. This is exactly how I strive to raise my biracial children. Thanks for the inspiration and the food for thought.
Remnants of U said…
I always hated the question "What are you mixed with?" or when my son was a Very light skinned baby. "Is he yours?" WTH?

Did I get offended because I am not bi-racial? And neither is my son. I don't know.

I also grew up seeing people in my father's family that could have "passed" as white back in the '40's & '50's that made sure you knew they were black.

And I have had those conversations with my son that he is a black man in America. I guess I feel that my "blackness" has made me who I am. Whether it was just the experiences I have had or something else...I can't put it into words as eloquently as you do.
Liz Dwyer said…
AAGH, replied to ALL your comments, hit "publish" and they went into error message black hole! AAGH!
Liz Dwyer said…
I'm so annoyed... I had the most thoughtful responses to you all! AAGH! I'm going to Target for some retail therapy.
Dr. No, Really said…
Great post! You have articulated a lot of the things I have been thinking about in terms of race, blackness, and black self-hate.

You have alluded to one of the things that always bothers me: People of mixed heritage denying or denigrating part of that heritage. For example, those who are Afro-Latino running around saying, " I am not black I am Latino! I'm Dominican (or any other identity)." I love that they celebrate their latino and national identity, but it irritates me that they deny their blackness. This is because underlying it is often an assumption that blackness is inferior. Why not say proudly that you are a latino of African-descent?

The other thing that bothers me is the playing up of mixed-ness as if it makes one special - a back handed insult to those who society views as "just black." As you have pointed out, most Americans are of some type of mixed heritage. However, those whose mixed-racial heritage is more recent at times assert this mixedness as better i.e. "I am black AND Asian!" The "I am black AND ..." construct can be problematic. As if being "just black" is a fatal flaw or makes one lesser than.
Lola Gets said…
See, THIS is why I dont like that whole "biracial" movement! Its like they dont want to admit that they are Black, and theyre trying any- and every- thing to run away from it!

But seriously, your husbands friend has some issues. Seriously.

nick said…
It's a total mystery to me how skin colour ever came to be such a huge issue between people. And those who get obsessed with just how black or white they are are even more puzzling. As for having to show off your belly scar and gun holster.... I really don't know what goes on in some people's minds.
Liz Dwyer said…
OK, I'm going to give replying to comments another try... please no black hole when I push publish this time!

Miz JJ,
There are some who say that being "white" is what we all want on some level due to the racism that exists in our society. I know what you mean about saying we're all humans. That concept is often brought up as a way to sidestep/avoid talking about race and the very real consequences of racism. But I don't mean it that way. I think seeing our oneness means being honest about the racial divisions WE have caused and continue to perpetrate.

I'm grateful to know you, too... and, as you know, I frequently have nothing articulate to say. :)

Oh yes, homie clearly had a LOT of issues beyond his personal identity politics. I wonder where he is these days.

I want box checking to be used in ways that help people, help direct resources or offer positive support, not the negativity that that process represents right now.

I'm sure your wife has some VERY interesting tales to tell. Do you two get the, "Are you together?" thing? My husband also says I was different - lol, he says I was weird but that if you think a girl is cute, you figure out how to deal with weird!

I increasingly believe that the children of interracial marriages/relationships have a special responsibility to bridge the gap and bring black and white together. And I think there's a sacred responsibility to do so in honor of our ancestors and all they endured. Their memories deserve no less than a rejection of the racist ideologies that have ruled for far too long. And gosh, Bronzeville has changed so much. I barely recognize it anymore.

From what I can recall, I don't think Scotty had a lot of positivity in his relationship with his parents, sadly enough. You know, I talk to my sons about how racism is not just a social issue, but is, fundamentally, a spiritual disease. And so developing spiritual capacity is the only way to be able to combat and avoid becoming ill with racism.

You're welcome. I like thinking about these sorts of things and peeling back the layers of complexity. But ultimately, these issues always come back to the heart for me and how our hearts connect. That's what is most important to me.

Those are such annoying questions. Don't you sometimes want to give some super sarcastic answer in return? I know I do! My husbands grandmother and her father could have passed but did not. Their pictures are up here in the house, but no one ever thinks they're his relatives because his skin is darker. Those conversations with our boys are hard. I don't want to feel like I'm crushing their spirits, but there's reality to be dealt with.

Oh gosh, such a good point. When I lived in NYC, the conversations I'd have with some folks from the DR were crazy. Even the darkest skinned Dominican would be all, "I'm not black!" and I'd wonder, okay, because your slave ship landed somewhere where the colonists/slave owners spoke Spanish, you're not black?

The specialness thing is interesting to me, too. I think there's a special responsibility (which I said in my comment above to House on a Hill) but as far as being "special" in some other way, I don't know about that. I tell folks I'm black and Irish, because it's true. But those things are equal in my mind and heart. That's why it comes down to the person's intent and whether you think it makes you superior or not.
Liz Dwyer said…
He did have issues for real. It just was one of those moments though where I didn't have much sympathy for whatever may have happened to him. Not with all the calling women bitches and all that. Nope.

I think there's a lot of biracial folks who do say they're black. When I saw Tiffany Jones' film, it bothered me because I felt like she doesn't speak for me. More folks with parents from different backgrounds need to speak up and let their voices be heard. I think it's important to talk about the experience more than we do because it can help us learn and work thru our racism.

Not such a mystery... it's called greed! If you want to use someone as free labor in your new colonies, you figure out how to systematically dehumanize them and make their color the most negative thing ever. I know there's got to be a book about it, but it's 4 AM and I can't think... ugh, insomnia!
Anonymous said…
Hi Los Angelista,
I really enjoy your blog and I visit often. When I read a couple of days ago that you attended the mixed people heritage festival, it just left a bad taste in my mouth. I am not sure why. I guess my experience has been that when people say they are mixed, they are trying to convince themselves and others of their non-blackness, your "superiority". But when I read your blog this morning, I realized why I always enjoy your writing. You just get "it"...You see, my parents are from Ethiopia (both 100% black - we can count up to 7 generations of blackness), but a lot of people in the US ask me if I am mixed and I always say "nope, 100% black" and the response from black Americans is "oh, there has to be some white in you somewhere" and White Americans just give me a very confused look. Some even expect me to say 'Thank you", as if saying I look "mixed" is some sort of compliment.
nick said…
I guess greed is one factor, Liz, though it doesn't explain why people like my mum are forever making denigrating remarks about black people (and other foreigners) when she has plenty of money and greed doesn't come into it.
nick said…
Oops, that didn't come out right, did it? What I mean is she sees black people as foreigners even if they're British citizens.
tnt5150 said…
I am the mother of biracial children and have watched Tiffany's videos on youtube for sometime. I don't care her perspective on things(if you ask me her mother messed that poor child up) but I watch her video just the same. I was pleased to see you express your view on Tiffany's movie. All I can say is that I get very turned off from the things she says as well as the things others say that she interviews. Honeslty I watch thinking "Dear lord please dont let my daugther end up jacked up like this"
allison sara said…
How did you get to be so comfortable with your racial identity, LosAngelista? You mentioned in an earlier post several questions you dealt with before reaching kindergarten, so it doesn't look like denial to me! It's the best gift you can give your children, which they're clearly giving back to you in appreciation for who their mom is (hair to say the least of it). And your husband's comment is awesome - being black doesn't mean you're not white, and being white doesn't mean you're not black. Your family is rockin'.
Ok I don't quite remember what I'd said but it was something along the lines of: having two parents who were Black didn't lessen my own cultural journey as a Black woman. I had to forge my own identity of African American heritage and being myself. Not feeling "poor and downtrodden" like some and not being uber bougie like others. I've always been proud of my heritage but not the ways Blacks have bashed each other over skin shade and hair texture or by false degrees of Blackness based on speech patterns, style of dress, music, or education standards. I used to feel odd that I was an "other" Black like I'd imagined a more recently bi-racial person would feel because of that.

And tell hubby liking DM has nothing to do with whiteness!
Toni Campbell said…
Once again you have taught me something that I didn't think of before. I'm sure I've met biracial people who have equated Blackness with something negative. I never picked up on it because I just chalked it up to self-hatred and kept it moving. My mixed & biracial friends are all secure with themselves and everything that entails.
LOL at your husband saying "with the Depeche Mode, and all that."
fanshen said…
As a co-founder of the Mixed Roots Festival, it kills me to read Anonymous say that the idea of the festival leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The whole point of the festival is that it is open to ALL of the stories of the Mixed experience. That includes Tiffany's voice and would happily invite yours, Anonymous. I'm also saddened that what you, Los Angelista, mostly got out of Tiffany's film was that she wants to deny her Blackness. My understanding was that in the past she had chosen to deny her Whiteness, and now feels that it is important to be proud of both (or ALL) of what makes up who she is. Some of the comments here are poignant examples of how accepting our Whitenss is met by many black people, "..biracial people just want to be White." "...the playing up of mixed-ness as if it makes one special..." Why does celebrating my Mixedness have to make you feel denigrated? And why can't I feel special about being Mixed in the same way you should feel special about not being Mixed? I do agree that many of the interviewees in Tiffany's film boiled 'Blackness' down to nothing but stereotypes - but the last thing I want to do is shake my finger at them. Instead I appreciate the opportunity to hear a different voice than mine & keep the conversations going. So thank you Los Angelista for the post!
Lotus Flower said…
Your post was so on point.

Eh, I don't really care for Tiffany either as I'm not a big fan of racial video blogs.

That Scotty guy really needs to take a look in the mirror and realize what he's doing. I think it has to do with that whole "I'm light-skinned (should I put another -ed on it? LOL) therefore I need to compensate for my lack of melanin" sort of thing in the black community. I've come across people like that, sadly.

Folks obviously have the freedom of choice to ID themselves as however they like and people need to comply with that. If they choose one race, wonderful. If they choose to ID as multiracial, great. It irritates me at how folks in this country will identify people as however they see fit, especially based on how they look.

It's funny how some pro-multiracial people will insist to others who are also mixed-race that you absolutely CANNOT identify as one race. You're either mixed or you're not and if you don't follow that route, you're labeled as someone who supports the "one-drop rule"
(I don't). Or point out at how Obama was wrong to identify with the black community (like when Obama said on Charlie Rose, "If I'm outside your building trying to catch a cab, they're not saying, 'Oh, there's a mixed race guy.'). One chick I knew even said that anyone mixed who identifies with their black side is a "cop-out". That to me is just as wrong as folks labeling those who identify as mixed as only black. This is something I've noticed with a lot of the mixed-race discussion forums online as well. Did it ever occur to these folks that some people prefer to identify with the culture that they grew up with and could relate to the most?

Those who want to be seen as multiracial - good for you! I'm all for it. It's when they try to put labels on others as to how THEY should identify that annoys the hell out of me - because clearly they should know better.
Lotus Flower said…
Some even expect me to say 'Thank you", as if saying I look "mixed" is some sort of compliment."

Ha, I get this all the time. Ethiopians come in all types - light brown to pitch black wavy haired, curly-haired, kinky-haired, etc, etc. I'm sure there's admixture in there as well but it's too far back in the family tree. Nonetheless, Ethios have a strong black identity especially after setting foot in America.
Dr. No, Really said…
LOL at the Dominican example. I am a fairly light skinned black woman. I have had Dominicans 10 to 20 shades darker than me say they aren't black. I'm a Dominican historian! Don't try to play me! Dominicans weren't talking that mess when they were attending HBCU's here in the US!

(1) If people are mixed, they should celebrate all parts equally. Or at a minimum, not disparage one part. Not being black and white and hating blackness or whiteness. Not being Asian and white and hating being Asian or white.

(2) If you are mixed, don't make people who are not mixed (at least not recently) feel like crap because they aren't. I think this is what leaves a poor taste in people's mouth. For example, there is a stereotype that if you are mixed you are by default more attractive than other people. I find this is especially true when are you black and something else. So I say love being Asian and black! But don't look down your nose at those who are "just black." Or argue that your beauty is based in the mixed-ness and the mixed-ness is better than or more special. In some ways, I think that is sad anyway. Why can't you just be attractive? LOL ... Or maybe you aren't but think you are because you are mixed. (Disclaimer: Not all mixed people do this of course. There is also a problem where those who are not mixed also play mixed-ness up and make it something coveted. This does not help the problem.)
Anonymous said…
I find Liz to be a most forthright person--she doesn't hide her pride & sometimes shame in any of the "races" that make her her.
Admittedly, I had some reservations about the mulatto diaries when I first found them (I've since changed that opinion to "wait & see" as the vlogger has grown).
I embrace & rejoice in mixedness & my own monoraciality for several hopeful reasons. But I do have concerns with our (meaning all peoples) adoption of the white superiority theology. Pride in all that you are is the right of every human being. I appreciate a genuine discourse on this miserable issue of "race" that includes as many viewpoints as we can get. My hope is to wipe out bigotry completely--like we wiped out the measles, chicken pox & such. I appreciate yours, Liz's & Tiff's views because I know that people who are biracial are, like the rest of us, not a monolith.

I am: patsgirl
I've thought of this issue a lot in my life and first of all, deplore a society that makes any group of people feel intrinsically inferior, especially since nearly all of us in America are ethnically mixed, whether we know it or not.

My husband's white brother is married to a mixed-race woman who has denied her blackness all her life. I asked Flip recently if he thought Sandy would be black now that Obama is President, and he said that her denial ran too deep. Even her children have grown up believing that she has a year-round tan.

While I feel sorry for anyone who is ashamed of her own ancestors, it's also impossible to respect her, but most of all I think her children have been deprived of the richness of their own history, and she didn't have the right to do that to them.
Liz Dwyer said…
I know I've got issues when being too busy to reply to comments stresses me out! -- So sorry, folks... and now it's almost 2 am so I need to TRY again to go to sleep. I love the dialogue/exchange of ideas. It's appreciated. YOU and your thoughtfulness are appreciated.
Liz Dwyer said…
As with anything, I think it depends what you want to get out of it. I loved seeing the interracial families at the festival. Very often in our general society, there is not much affirmation or support for those families, and I do think they have an additional set of challenges to overcome. I wondered if a gathering like that would have been useful to my parents or not. I want to ask them about it. Sigh...folks acting like their saying you look mixed is a compliment is really annoying, but that crap does happen ALL the time.

It's a learned behavior. Greed and a desire for power motivate the original racism, and then it continues on for generations. Interesting about her not seeing blacks as Brits, even if they're born in the UK. How common is that?

I haven't watched too much past the clip I saw at the festival, and I did get turned off. It was such a visceral reaction. I suppose my litmus test is if I think one of my parents might be insulted by it, I'm not cool with it. And I think both of my parents wouldn't have felt her videos.

I think the only thing that gave me any comfort with my identity was growing up in a Baha'i household and community. I was always around incredible amounts of diversity, and lots of kids from interracial/cultural backgrounds. And I learned at a very age that my identity had to be based on spiritual qualities, not anything to do with the physical or with people's opinions/stupid ideas.

Yeah, I told him to cut the DM comments! :) We have SUCH warped views of whiteness and blackness. I just saw Santigold tonight and while watching her perform, (she did a cover of a Cure song!) I found myself thinking how she would not be accepted as "black" enough culturally by a lot of folks. It's a very limited perspective that makes folks miss out on so many joyous things.

I think if we grow up in this country, all of us, whether we have one parent who's black & one who's white, (or any other combo) have been trained to think blackness is something negative. It's something we all have to struggle with and overcome, and some folks have an easier time of it than others.
Liz Dwyer said…
I thought lots of things about her film but yes, that was one aspect of it that really stuck out to me and a few other folks who were also there. Maybe if I knew more about Tiffany or spent time watching her YouTube videos, I'd know more in-depth about her progression of thought. I haven't watched her Youtube videos in depth, because my gut feeling is they aren't, given choices I have to make with how I spend my time, something that would move me forward in a positive way. Other people may feel they do, and that's great if they do.

As far as people's comments, in my experience, I've definitely known some biracial people who do want to be white. I wish that wasn't the case, but it's true. But, there are black folks without a white parent who also wish they could be white. It's a part of growing up in America. That's why when you give a black girl a choice between a white doll and a black doll, that little black girl STILL picks the white doll. And I suppose I could think about black women who've called me an uppity mulatto or other such things, but I prefer to think about WHY these things get said and how the skin color politics that have gone on for generations are layered underneath interactions I may have with folks. I try to remember it's not necessarily about me, and I endeavor to show even more love and respect, in the effort to undue generations of hurt.

I'd be interested in video blogs that actually discuss furthering racial unity/equality. But to rehash the same stuff that folks argued about in college 15-20 years ago, (dang, I'm old!) that's not so interesting to me. I agree with you that folks can ID however they want. I'm fine with being all of the above, and I think identity is a very fluid concept, so I can be black, white and mixed. Some folks like to tell me that because I have a black Mom, I identify with being black more. But I know more about Irish history than my Dad. Go figure.

Your comments reminded me of one of the obstericians I ditched - she had the nerve to start questioning me about what I was and then when I said I'm half black and half Irish, this heffa goes, "Ooh, that's why you're so pretty and exotic looking." Whatever. You're fired. I don't have time for that b.s.! This is why I believe racism is the most vital and challenging issue facing this country. It seeps into everything.

Thanks for saying I'm forthright. I try to be. I loved your comment, especially the point about us not being a monolith just because we each have parents who are from a different background/color.

That's so very sad. I love talking with my kids about all of their heritage and how they can be proud and happy about it all... both the white and black sides. Well, except for John C. Calhoun. When they saw his picture, they said he looked like pure evil. I tend to agree!
Jameil said…
I was watching this movie called "AfroPunk" and this girl wasn't even mixed and had Tiffany/Scotty complex. Her own MOTHER had told her not to date black men b/c they couldn't keep a job and were uneducated. WHAT!? WHAT ABOUT YOU FATHER!? i think her parents were still together but she was raised in affluence and shunned anything black. ISSUES. it makes me upset that their black parent(s) don't teach them pride in their heritage and expose them to things, no matter how many black parents they have. UGH!! what your husband says about realizing white doesn't mean not black and vice versa makes utter sense. You definitely seem exactly like that. You're just Liz.
Jameil said…
On the other hand it wasn't just Scotty's parents who were at fault. you can be certain there were people who told him all his life he wasn't black enough. yes, his parents apparently should've worked harder but there were other forces at work. in the civil rights movement some of the most militant/vigilant were the ones with the lightest skin. almost like they had something to prove. my mom's mixed blood is not as immediate but she's light enough to engender more than her fair share of "you think you better" talk which makes her very defensive about her color when she's defensive about not much else. there's something about being attacked for something you didn't ask for (and yet still wouldn't necessarily want to change) that rankles the mind, no matter your complexion/hair/features. maybe no one ever treated Scotty right until he started overcompensating and "proving" himself (can i giggle at the empty holster? lol). or perhaps it was way too long before someone said, "um... you really don't have to do all that." whatever the case, i hope he has figured it out by now. i would like to hear how/if (please the former) he's grown since you last met.
SecondCity said…
Having watched many of Tiffany's “Mulatto Diaries,” I agree that, at times, some of her comments leave you scratching your head a bit. But not many of us can say we always perfectly express ourselves -- particularly when it comes to the issue of race in America. The primary thing is that Tiffany is putting herself out there, and you can pick out various negative elements of her efforts but clearly her intent is to move the discussion forward. As for the whole "multiracial is special" thing. Well, if talking about first generation or even second-generation multiracials today, it is special only to the degree that – however you identify – you are often forced to think about race/racial identity in a different way -- although each individual will do this to varying degrees based on various factors. I wish I could say I am surprised by many of the comments here about Tiffany and all others with partial African ancestry who do not identify as Black and Black alone. There is no question that the notion of Black inferiority swirls around the entire conversation. Are some mixed people who do not identify as Black and Black alone guided by a belief in this notion? Absolutely. That said, are most of the Black Americans who react with such visceral anger at the very thought of a multiracial or non-Black identity guided by a belief in this notion? Absolutely. See Debra Dickerson's article "First Class" ( on this point. Or for a more thorough understanding of multiraciality, try reading the books “Fade” by Elliot Lewis or “What are You?” by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins (editor). Good luck.
Anonymous said…
I think some folk here seem to very much misunderstand Tiffany Jones and do her an injustice.

I don't think she 'just wants to be white' or feels in any way she doesn't want to be thought of as black, or that she denigrates black identity.

I think you'll find she thinks of herself as being both black AND white, and she seeks to explore what THAT means as distinct from what it means to be exclusively black or white.

And I think she does a terrific job too; in what is a minefield of potential misunderstandings, misconceptions and prejudices she offers a very accessible, upbeat, reasonable and positive way to explore and discuss the mixed race experience.

And I haven't come across her supposing or presenting herself as superior to either black people or white people.

And as an aside, if ever mixed race people are described as special, I suggest that is a different thing to being described as superior. Being special is something good and positive everyone should feel about themselves; it pertains to one's own dignity, not how one measures oneself against others.

I suggest there seems to be a large degree of individuals here reading their own agendas and, yes, prejudices into her work.

Personally, I recommend checking out her work, she has huge amount to offer.
Anonymous said…
I find it rather shocking that Tiffany Jones is misrepresented in this way. It is kind of hard to read the comments here especially since you've mentioned that you don't even watch her videos. In your response to Fanshen, you said that you "thought lots of things about her film." Yet you pull out the most negative aspects of it & twist them around.

Both of my parents are black and so are both sets of my
grandparents. I had the opportunity to get to know Tiffany a little bit more before judging her. Never have I got the "vibe" that she thought she was better, smarter, or prettier than me.

Also, to compare her to someone such as Scotty, a guy who walks around with an empty gun holster? During one of my favorite videos, Tiffany wanted to know,"what is your definition of blackness that makes you want to accuse me of not wanting to be black?"

I feel that the point of her bringing up those negative stereotypical images was to show how ridiculous it sounds to accuse someone of not being "black enough."

Someone here also mentioned that her intentions are to "move the conversation forward." I agree and if you gave it a chance (opened up your mind more) they just might move you forward "in a positive way" as you put it.
SecondCity said…
To Anonymous/the person of Ethiopian descent,

It “leaves a bad taste in my mouth” that you seem to have bought into America’s racial madness. In the past few days, you are the second person from a recent sub-Saharan African (SSA) immigrant group that I’ve come across to do this. This is surprising, as in many SSA countries even Obama, who “looks Black” by American standards, would not be considered Black and in fact might be considered White (Note to Los Angelista, while your Scotty-Tiffany analogy was flawed, there is a Scotty-Obama analogy to be made. Think about it.). So you are 100% Black, huh? Even if you arbitrarily decide that races became “pure” 10,000 years ago, I can assure you that since that time there has been much mixing from Southern Europe to the Middle East/Northern Africa and into SSA – yes, including Ethiopia. There was no magic barrier to prevent this mixing. So you are about as “100% Black” as the random person from Spain or Portugal is “100% White.” More, unless my former graduate school professor was lying to me, by some racial classification schemes, you, as an Ethiopian, are White, just as Finnish are Yellow, and Melanesians are Black. Maybe you can still call yourself “Black,” but definitely not “African-American,” as your personal history does not include slavery/Jim Crow in America. On second thought, I won’t concern myself with how you identify, if you won’t concern yourself with how I or anyone else identifies. Deal?
SecondCity said…
To Los Angelista,

“As far as people's comments, in my experience, I've definitely known some biracial people who do want to be white. I wish that wasn't the case, but it's true.”

But would you not agree that some multiracials (referring to those with some Black ancestry) are in fact White? Consider that many if not most multiracials primarily identify as Black, while acknowledging their White Ancestry. The one-drop rule is not a factor. Indeed, these people identify as Black probably because it is in keeping with their predominant phenotype, but more importantly because it is in keeping with their experiences (environment they grew up in/live in, associations, interests, etc.). Similarly, many multiracials primarily identify as White, while acknowledging their Black ancestry. The one-drop rule is not a factor (As you noted, a whole lot of Whites [1/3], and a whole lot of Latinos [nearly all], whatever their race, and some Native Americans have a slave ancestor [i.e., a recent African ancestor]. Kind of makes the one-drop rule pointless, doesn’t it?). Indeed, these people identify as White probably because it is in keeping with their predominant phenotype, but more importantly because it is in keeping with their experiences (see above). As what might be called a second-generation multiracial, I could identify as White owing to predominant phenotype/experiences. Yet, I do not identify as anything owing to my knowledge of the history of race. I know, I know this comes dangerously close to saying I’m “Human,” which will no doubt send some into the usual temper tantrum.

In the end, I suppose, if Tiffany of the “Mulatto Diaries” wanted to be White, which she seemingly does not, she could choose to primarily identify as White. Just as author Danzy Senna chooses to primarily identify as Black. Whether one choice is more ridiculous than the other depends on your vantage point. Honestly, I don’t care how either one identifies.
Lotus Flower said…
LOL, I love how whenever the topic of race comes up annonymous trolls start coming out of the woodworks. People who never bother to read Liz's blog or people who never post anywhere else but in the racial topics. Where's the "rolls eyes" smiley when you need it?

Second City quote:
"Maybe you can still call yourself “Black,” but definitely not “African-American,” as your personal history does not include slavery/Jim Crow in America.

I know this wasn't directed at me, but I had to respond to this stupid statement. I'm also of Ethiopian descent and I consider myself African-American for the simple fact that my parents are African immigrants and I was born and raised in America. I'm African and American. Therefore that makes me African-American. Deal? Many of my colleagues who are first generation Africans (they hail from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, etc) also define themselves as African American. You come off as extremely condescending and arrogant as if Africans haven't had a history of suffering from segregation, colonialism, and hardship. Do some actual research on black African history before you rant and rave on subjects you know nothing about. It simply does not fly.

Honestly, I don’t care how either one identifies.

Really? Obviously from the previous quote that you just gave to to Anonymous about how she can't call herslf African-American, that's a lie. You just contradicted yourself.

So you are about as “100% Black” as the random person from Spain or Portugal is “100% White.”

What are you, the race police now?

If Tiffany wants to be known as biracial, multiracial, mixed - hell, if she wants to call herself a half Klingon, more power to her. Just like I call Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, and Mariah Carey multiracial/biracial and not just black Tiffany should be called the same.

If you actually read Liz's other blog posts, Second City (which I doubt you do)you would know that Liz strongly identifies with her Irish-American heritage as much as her African-American heritage. She doesn't try to hide either one, EVER.

I just wish some people would stop blaming black people for the source of all their problems of fitting in a racial category and scapegoating them. It's nice how Liz isn't one of those mixed folks who will come up to me, ask me what I am, then say, "You're Black?'re pretty". It's nice how Liz isn't one of those mixed folks who will derail Obama for identifying as African-American or how anyone mixed who identifies as Black is a "cop-out". It's getting old.
Lotus Flower said…
It amazes me at how some of the Anons on here take Liz's opinions the wrong way.
Lili said…
Oh dear, is LosAngelista not allowed to voice HER opinions on HER blog? If you make a movie for general public viewing you must allow the same public to make up their minds and take way their own nuggets from the movie. Or is this merely a case of "see it MY way or the highway"! It smacks of a certain degree of insecurity in my book, seeking approval or affirmation from all and sundry. We cannot all see life through the same lenses, surely, if anything I am disturbed by those who take offence at dissenting opinions.
SecondCity said…

My post directed at the person of Ethiopian descent contained more than a bit of sarcasm/was intentionally caustic. My main point was, we all can play this you have to identify this way or that way game. Or the I'm offended if you don't identify this way or that way game. My point was that if you – in this case the person of Ethiopian descent – start calling others out with respect to how they identify, then it can easily be turned right back around on you. Thus, my statement stands, that I truly do not care how you identify – meaning that even if your identity makes absolutely no sense to me, in the end, it is none of my business. For instance, I could argue that the term “African-American” obscures your Ethiopian background. That you, unlike most African-Americans, have specific knowledge of your recent ancestry and the culture(s) associated with it, and that you are therefore very fortunate (So why not say "Ethiopian-American"?). I could argue that all I want, but I am not you and so it’s not my determination to make.

As for Los Angelista's opinion, of course she has every right to say whatever she wants.

"If you actually read Liz's other blog posts, Second City (which I doubt you do) you would know that Liz . . . "

But this is precisely the point. If Los Angelista had watched more of Tiffany's videos or read Tiffany's blog (not simply an edited down short film), she would have had a more informed opinion before making the flawed Scotty-Tiffany analogy, which of course underpinned the rest of the conversation (e.g., multiracials just want to be white, multiracial self-hatred, etc.). Maybe Los Angelista still would have thought/written the exact same thing, but I doubt it.
Lotus Flower said…
To "SecondCity"-

And there you have it!!

We have a troll, ladies and gentlemen!!!!!!!!

SecondCity said…
To Mimi,

My name is John, and as the name “SecondCity” implies I live in Chicago, specifically Hyde Park on the South Side. So now I’m not “anonymous” anymore. As for the “troll” part, nah, I prefer to be called “prick” or “asshole,” which every once in a while you just gotta be. Now I can go back to ignoring the insane ramblings of others about race/racial identity, at least in the blogosphere, for a good long while.
Liz Dwyer said…
Ugh, I replied to comments last night, they went into a black hole, I was too tired to retype last night. Now it's the morning, so let me try to remember what I said...

Good points. I want to see that Afropunk movie. No, not just Scotty's fault. I'm sure folks wanted him to prove himself. I have no idea where he is. My husband completely lost touch with him. Sigh, I don't think it's any easier nowadays for kids to be able to just be themselves. Such a shame.

Second City/John,
You said a lot of stuff and I wish I had the time right now to respond to everything you said. I do agree that Tiffany is entitled to her perspective, even if I disagree with some of it, just as I'm entitled to mine. Tiffany is but one voice in a sea of voices. She is not, like I am not, a Martin Luther King leading biracial people to the promised land. I read some of the comments over on her blog when she wrote about me and this post, and some of the responses of her commenters. It was very interesting.

Now, as far as your trying to tell people about themselves and how they should identify themselves, nooo. Please don't do that. It's uncalled for, not to mention, the only person who gets to swear in the comments is me. Not you. And if you think you're an asshole, maybe you should change your approach and work on becoming LESS of an asshole so that you can actually be heard.

You don't have to agree with me or anybody else, but coming here with that very typical "I'm anonymous on the internet so I'm gonnna come at people like I wouldn't dare come to them if they were standing right in front of me with all their folks behind them" attitude is just so last year. Really, what's with the passive aggressive "ignoring the insane ramblings of others about race/racial identity" comment? Was that directed to me? To Mimi?

If you want to contribute something to the discussion, to what's going on in our country regarding race, you don't need to attack Mimi or me. Just say what you have to say without acting like you're gonna set someone else straight. If I were Tiffany Jones, I would not be pleased that my fans are taking such an approach to folks who may not have "seen the light" and fallen into lock-step with her viewpoint.

I know you may never come back here, and that's totally your choice, but let me be crystal clear, I will not tolerate the sort of bullshit that passes for dialogue on other blogs here in THIS space.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience with Tiffany and her videos. I'm but one viewer of her film, and I clearly have my own opinion/perspective on it. It may not be right, but my "spider senses" hit me in the gut with it.

You say, "I suggest there seems to be a large degree of individuals here reading their own agendas and, yes, prejudices into her work."

Isn't that true for everybody? Folks could say that people coming from Tiffany's blog to my site have their own agendas and prejudices, too. I just think we can't help but bring our own issues into play. Maybe I see things through a certain light because I have genuine friendships with black women (and white, Latino & Asian women) and hashed through lots of stuff starting in high school.

Anyway, hopefully we can all find a way to discern the truth through the sincere sharing of perspectives.

Can you say your name so I know which anonymous person I'm addressing. Even if you just want to refer to yourself as "Cat", give yourself a name!

I'd never even heard of Tiffany Jones prior to the Mixed Roots Festival. She could've sold me on her POV in her film, but she didn't. I just don't know if I want to revisit all her hundreds of podcasts, just so I can get a better appreciation of her. Busy life, two kids, you know? I will tell you I had MUCH appreciation for another film there called Parallel Adele, which was about the experience of being half-Asian. It was VERY well done and I think it spoke more to my experiences, and to my heart, than Tiffany's film. I'm interested in following up on that. But thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

"I just wish some people would stop blaming black people for the source of all their problems of fitting in a racial category and scapegoating them."

Yes, last time I checked, black folks aren't the people who started all this racial classification stuff OR the one drop rule, but black folks get blamed for keeping it going!

It sort of feels like if I don't agree with Tiffany I either 1) am unenlightened 2) am brainwashed by the one drop rule or 3) am just a hater. That's weird. I don't mind folks disagreeing with me because I could totally be wrong, but I do mind people being condescending or insulting to me or other commenters. That bothers me.
Anonymous said…
Hi. My name is Tami (aka Anonymous). I didn't leave my name because I hate having to put in passwords & what not when all I wanna do is express my feelings, and move on....and you're welcome.
Liz Dwyer said…
Well, hello! Glad you came back and introduced yourself! :)
APG said…

#1) There is NO SUCH THING as a
so-called "light skin Black" person

#2) The ALLEGED 'Light-Skinned
been PROVEN to have been a MYTH.

#3) The ALLEGED prevalence of
wide-spread Colorism-based
"FEATURES TESTS" have also
been proven to have been MYTH.;=14

-- APG (



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