Owning It: Why I Talk About Race

by Rachel on December 19, 2011

A few weeks ago on Facebook, someone accused me of talking about race too much. The comment totally took me by surprise, as I don’t think I talk about race that often, or at least any more than I “should.” But the more I got into the discussion, the more I realized I wanted to talk about why I talk about race and also say…sorry I’m not sorry.

When I was younger, I didn’t talk about race very much because I was worried about being the Angry Black Girl. I remember seeing characters like Coral on “The Real World” and Omarosa on “The Apprentice” taking on that role, and no one seemed to be fans. I got the impression that the people around me didn’t like it when people talked about race or inequality, so I didn’t.

When I was in college, my ISS class (basically a required social studies class) was in a huge lecture hall with hundreds of students. Even with that many students, the instructor was still able to get good discussions going, and we talked a lot about race. I watched the black students speak up and talk about injustice. I even watched white students talk about it. But I typically stayed quiet. I didn’t want to draw attention to the ways I was different because I didn’t want people to treat me differently.

Then one day we were discussing whether or not the US should have to pay restitutions to African-Americans for slavery. As people weighed in, I finally decided to enter the discussion. When the instructor called on me I said, “You know, restitutions sound nice, but my concern is that once they are paid, people would take an attitude of, ‘OK, racism is over! You got your money, what more do you want?’ Well, you know what I want? I want to be able to walk into any store and know that they carry my shampoo and I want to be able to buy Band-aids that match my skin color!”

I felt a ripple go through the lecture hall and got the feeling that approximately 200 people who had previously been nodding off had just woken up and turned around to see who had said that. From their positions — slunk down in their seats, probably working on the State News crossword — it sounded like it had just come from a Valley girl. And yet the words implied it was from a black girl.

Obviously, I’m both.

But suddenly I felt like the energy in the room really shifted and actually lightened up a bit, and it was a really good feeling. I started to realize that I might be able to talk about very serious matters in a lighthearted way because I have both love and snark for both black people and white people. And it occurred to me that maybe turning my irritation and anger into humor would be a way to get people to listen.

When I started doing stand-up, I began working my race and experiences with race into my comedy routines and that was great for me; it helped me talk about it in a way that wasn’t angry (which is important to me, because generally, I’m not a very angry person; I’m passionate, but not angry) but still educated people. By laughing at the people who said ignorant things to me, I was treating everyone listening like they weren’t racist or ignorant, like they were in on the joke. If they saw themselves in my joke, then fine — they’d realize what they were doing wrong. But I didn’t have to make them feel like horrible people in the process.

A few years after college, I started blogging on Shedding It, and I rarely mentioned my race. I was back in the position of feeling like I didn’t want to draw attention to it, especially because all the other blogs I read were written by young white women. Once again, I started to worry about being criticized for focusing on race too much or alienating readers who didn’t want to feel like a health blog was getting super political, so I avoided bringing it up.

But after I had been blogging for a little while, my confidence started to grow, and I realized I was ignoring a big part of who I am. I’m half-black and half-white and that comes with a unique set of experiences and also a different perspective on race. I’ve experienced enough privileges of being white that I can talk about the racism I’ve experienced without getting super emotional, but I’ve had enough shitty experiences regarding my skin color to talk about it with passion.

The main reason I talk about race is to educate people. I truly, truly believe that most people don’t want to be ignorant; sometimes they just don’t know what is appropriate or inappropriate and they are afraid to ask. And who can blame them? It’s hard to be comfortable asking people questions about race. Without a diverse group of friends (which isn’t necessarily someone’s fault), they don’t have someone they can ask. I’m cool with being the person who tells them.

And I like telling people before they ask. During the first week of my core honors classes in high school, we had to do presentations on ourselves and one of the girls in the class (who is now one of my good friends) explained why she wore a bindi during her presentation. It was such a relief to not have to pretend to know or feel stupid for not knowing. I really liked how she handled that and I decided that might be a good approach to talking about race and differences. Maybe I should just tell people rather than make them ask, or at least start the discussion so they knew it was OK to be curious.

So now I volunteer information about my hair and answer questions patiently (though no, you still can’t touch it). I don’t wait for people tell me I’m “way too tan” or make them ask me where I’m “from.” I explain that “all biracial people are SO BEAUTIFUL!” is neither true nor that complimentary. I don’t let them just assume I’m Mexican. The bottom line is, I try to inform people of my race and of my boundaries with regards to talking (and joking!) about it before we’ve known each other for too long. Because I don’t think people will figure out where the line is on their own if no one is willing to talk about it.

The other reason I talk about race is because I know that a lot of my friends and blog readers are going to have mixed-race babies some day (or mixed nephews and nieces, or just mixed kids playing with their friends) and I like having open conversations about what my experience has been like. In a lot of cases, their babies will be the first mixed-race kids in their family. So…I want them to know what our hair is like. I want them to know that their kids are probably going to get asked if they are adopted and tell them that people might assume they are the nanny, and that it’s not OK, and that you should tell them that. I want them to know that many biracial kids feel racism from both sides and to make sure their friends and family know not to perpetuate that and no one should force them to pick a side. And I want them to know that it’s OK to be angry with how they or their children treated, but that they shouldn’t let the anger consume them. And I want their children to know that being mixed race is really pretty cool and they should be proud of it and own it from the get go.

While I used to not want to be different or attract attention for being biracial, I’m OK with it now. If talking about it makes people uncomfortable, tough shit. I talk about a lot of things that make people uncomfortable. I’ve owned it.

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Danielle December 19, 2011 at 1:19 pm

You rock.

I’m Mexican-American, and am never assumed to be anything other than white-ish with European descent from somewhere, so I too have had my own transforming experience on how I addressed my racial identity. I’m owning it a little more every day :).

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2 Ramou December 19, 2011 at 1:35 pm

First, I am so happy that you wrote this and good on you for being brave and talking about race so openly here.
My entire life I’ve been worried about being the Angry Black Girl, and I’m almost embarrassed that it took until my mid-twenties (so like, two years ago) to embrace it. I’ve kind of set myself up through various things I’ve written on the Internet to be someone who speaks about race, so I understand when people seek me out for my opinion on something race-related. But sometimes you just get race fatigue and it becomes harder to be “nice” and so much easier to simply say, “You are an idiot,” when someone doesn’t get why it’s not okay to say the n-word even if OMG it’s just a joke! But I guess there just comes a point when you really do want to be a more active participant in the discussion. And even if it can be somewhat isolating, it’s also a pretty freeing realization.
You are spot on about continuing to talk about it despite race-based conversations often being uncomfortable. Whenever someone pulls out some nonsense like, “But talking about it just makes it worse!” they get side-eye and a, “You must be White.” Being the uncomfortable White person in a race conversation is no less uncomfortable than being the Black woman in a courtroom who everyone assumes is dating the defendant and not, you know, working on the case (I’m projecting here, but bear with me.) Racism exists! And refusing to talk about it doesn’t make that fact suddenly no longer true. I’m hopeful though that talking about it is helpful and will lead to progress. Usually. Sometimes though people really are just fucking idiots.

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3 Ramou December 19, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I meant to say no “more” uncomfortable. Because yes, it is less uncomfortable. But you know what I mean. Gah!

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4 Diane December 19, 2011 at 1:41 pm

I’ve known you for a long time, and I’ve always appreciated how open you are about race.

A friend of mine got married to a few years ago (he’s black/white, she’s white), and she couldn’t even find cake toppers with appropriate skin tones. Apparently, they only make black/black and white/white couples. Seriously, wedding industry?! It’s basic shit like that that reminds me we have long way to go.

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5 Vanessa VanAlstyne December 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Sometimes people think I’m jewish, and I’m like “no I’m not that cool.”

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6 Susan December 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm

I read a ton of blogs, but I very rarely leave comments. This time, however, I feel compelled to say AMEN! Thanks for sharing.

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7 Elisabeth December 19, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Yes! Yes…a million times!

In a similar fashion, I am characteristically light-hearted about the fact that my husband is black (and I’m growing a bi-racial baby). At a party a few weeks ago in my hometown, my husband was the only person in the room who wasn’t white. Some random typically white classic rock song came on, and of course all of us crackers knew the words. My husband, however, did not. I just looked at him and said, ” honey don’t worry…it’s a white thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

The way that everyone stared at me, mouths gaping, you would’ve thought that I just told him he wasn’t the father of our baby or something. People are so ridiculous sometimes. As if my husband is black, but I never noticed…or like he’s black, but nobody should notice. It’s all very strange.

We will have the first mixed-race child in either of our families, so I am curious to see how everything transpire. I’m particularly worried with anyone thinking that it would be OK to nickname her based on her skin tone, or that she would be treated any differently because of her mixed race. I do fully plan to practice my retort when I’m accused of being the nanny or babysitter. Did it ever bother your Mom that you didn’t look more like her?

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8 Rachel December 19, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Ah, you nailed it in that story…I think the whole “we don’t notice race” thing is why people get uncomfortable when I talk about it. Like I’m supposed to be NOT AWARE of my race?? I don’t fault people for noticing it. It’s OK. You have EYES! Ugh.

My mom can probably speak to your last question better than I can, but I’ll go out on a limb and say no, it’s not an issue because I look exactly like my mom. We have the exact same face. I’ve seen my own reflection in store windows and thought, “What is my mom doing here?” and strangers point out how much we look alike. I think mixed race children can and do look like both their parents as much as one-race children, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

Can’t wait to see your little one and hear all the stories! You know I’m always here if ya need a consult.

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9 D December 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm

In the spirit of Rachel’s post, I want to point out that ‘cracker’ is a highly offensive term. I find it a little off putting that you are so judgemental about these people at the party, when you use a really offensive word yourself. I’m assuming you don’t know that it is, but I would be careful criticising other people when we are all doing our best to be aware/conscious. Anyway, just thought I would tell you.

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10 Elisabeth December 19, 2011 at 2:19 pm

I’m actually not criticizing anyone in my comment-my tone is more of shock than anything else, because race has never had this “ignore it and it’ll go away” effect on me personally. I’m not offended by the term “cracker” any more than I am offended if someone points out that my husband is black. It’s a word, and in my life, “cracker” is not a word that I need to be ‘careful’ about. The word has no power unless I let it.

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11 D December 19, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I’m sorry – what?

I’m not asking if you are personally offended by the word. I am telling you it’s offensive. Do you know how this word originated? If so, and you are still not offended, then I have no words.

And come on, the word “has no power” unless you let it? So if I said to you “The N word really isn’t offensive, we just have to not let it have any power!!!!!”, you would be okay with that? Would your husband? Words have power whether or not you PERSONALLY take issue, and that is the whole reason behind being ‘politically correct’. Other people have discussed offensive phrases in this comment section (Melissa Nibbles had some good examples, like “Chinese Christmas”. Am I personally offended by this? No, but I recognize that it’s culturally insensitive and has historically negative connotations, so I would avoid using it.

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12 Ramou December 19, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Maybe I shouldn’t get into this, but cracker and the n-word are not on the same level like, at all. To whom do you think it is offensive? White people? A huge part of the reason why racial slurs are so problematic is because they were used to keep the oppressed in check, and they are still used that way. White people are not oppressed so, no.

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13 D December 19, 2011 at 2:40 pm

For some reason I can’t reply to you, Ramou, so I’m just replying here instead.

So let me get this straight – you think we should only avoid using racial slurs that are against minorities or oppressed groups? But racial slurs for everyone else are okay? This line of reasoning just promotes racism. And FYI – racism isn’t just against ‘oppressed’ groups. Racism is intolerance or prejudice against any group – so stop making excuses. If it’s a racially motivated slur, it’s offensive.

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14 Rachel December 19, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Quick question, D — how do you believe the word originated? Upon reading your comment, I realized I didn’t know, so I looked it up, and everything I keep finding has multiple possible origins and nothing concrete. I guess I’d just like to understand where you are coming from since the origin seems to be a big part of why the word is offensive.

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15 Ramou December 19, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Nope, D. Racism = prejudice + power.

Do I use the term “cracker”? No. But it doesn’t hurt anyone. No one is being oppressed by Elisabeth, or anyone, saying it. No, I don’t think that racial slurs for “everyone else” are okay. Just White people.

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16 D December 19, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Rachel – like most racial/ethnic slurs, there are multiple theories on how/when they originated, you know? But it’s commonly understood to describe white trash/poor white people/racist white people, and is also understood as a white slave drive ‘cracking the whip’. It’s not just a funny/rude/random term for white people.

I just find it very offensive that we have to classify racist words by “level” and saying “well that word is more offensive becaue of x, y, z” and trying to justify why we normalize certain racist phrases and make others taboo. I actually have a BA and MA in linguistics and study language evolution and sociolinguistics, which includes looking at taboo words and their origin. Certain words or phrases are not inherently more racist than others; there is no reason to say “cracker” instead of “c-world” yet we say “n-word”. We are conditioned to think that we ‘owe’ it to minorities to be respectful, but the ‘oppressor’ (regardless of how absolutely misguided this phrases is) can be ridiculed, mocked, etc because they deserve it.

I’m not trying to stir up anything, really. I just take issue with saying some words are “more racist” than others. I didn’t realise that even being mildly racist was okay.

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17 D December 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Uhhh, were you serious with that last comment?

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18 Ramou December 19, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I was being somewhat facetious.

What’s problematic to me is that I think your point is a valid one – that maybe we just shouldn’t use racial slurs at all. But when you’re talking about what words should and shouldn’t mean something without taking into account the social context and how they really are different, that is ridiculous. And while you can study this all you want and that’s great that you’re interested in this, if you’re White you will never understand what it’s like to be called something like “nigger.” That is not something that academics can teach you. And trying to place that on the same wave length as a White person referring to her family as crackers is offensive. But speaking in a broader sense, racism isn’t about hurt feelings. It’s about a society that systematically oppresses a certain group of people because of the color of their skin. And I guess that’s what I mean when I say I don’t care about racial slurs against White people. Flippantly using the word “cracker” doesn’t have any impact on systematic oppression. So while maybe you shouldn’t use it because you might hurt someone’s feelings, it doesn’t seem very imporant to me.

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19 K December 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Ramou, this statement: “No, I don’t think that racial slurs for “everyone else” are okay. Just White people” makes you seem like an insensitive douchebag. That has nothing to do with your race, just btw.

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20 Jodi Chick December 19, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Just my personal opinion, but I sometimes I think the desire to not say anything that could be construed as “offensive” to any one race/religion/minority group becomes a part of the problem. It seems almost like every one is so busy walking on eggshells trying not to upset anyone that we’ve all started just ignoring race completely. Should we be conscious of our words? Absolutely. But I also think that making light of something like the word “cracker” takes some of the scary taboo “do not discuss” aspects away from the word and the more we make it silly, the less power a word has. Especially as younger generations come who really have no idea what the word is meant to imply other than the meaning we choose to give it now. Language is an evolution.

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21 Ramou December 19, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for clarifying, K. I was sure that it had everything to do with me being Black. :)

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22 Rachel's Mom December 19, 2011 at 10:08 pm

No, it didn’t really ever bother me that Rachel didn’t look more like me. (As she said, she does, but just way more tan….HA!) Sometimes people would ask me if she was adopted, but if that kind of stuff was going to bother me, I would not have had a mixed race child.

I would love to see pictures of your baby after he/she is born.

Rachel’s dad wanted to name her Jemima because he thought it was a really cute name, but I thought that was setting her up for a world of hurt. (He didn’t equate the name with “Aunt Jemima” of syrup fame.)

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23 melissanibbles December 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Great post Rachel. I agree that a lot of people just don’t know that it’s not okay to say certain things. In our country there are a lot of nicknames for things that are actually racial slurs, but people don’t think about it because these terms are common place. I’m thinking “Indian giver”, “Chinese Christmas”, “Oh, that’s gay”, etc… Those things are offensive and the only way to get people to stop saying them is to TELL THEM because some people just don’t know.

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24 Anna December 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Great, great post. I spent 4 months in an African country feeling very, very conscious of my white skin and yellow hair and how much I stuck out amongst crowds of Kenyans, Somalis, and Sudanese. A lot of my interactions with people were rooted in assumptions and judgments based on my whiteness, so I figured that I might as well head them off and address it myself. And they reciprocated. I had more frank discussions about race during those 4 months than I had during all my 22 years. I think we all could benefit from some up-front, basic dialogue about race and it doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

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25 Kia December 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I love the fact that you talk about race. It also gives me information I never had or been brave enoughto ask. My family is pretty mixed racially, including more than half of my neices and nephews, and I hope that they all are so open about what life is like and tell their truths the way you do as the grow older.

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26 Jen December 19, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I think you do a terrific job at navigating the rocky terrain of racial discourse in a humorous yet insightful way.

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27 Christina December 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for this post! I think any biracial topics you cover are extremely helpful to me — I’m white and my boyfriends is biracial, and so our one-day-future children will have a mix going on themselves. So, while I know how to care for my blond hair, I have no clue how to care for the hair of a little biracial girl who one day might be my own, for example. It’s helpful to hear your take on these sorts of things to at least begin educating myself (and getting to hear it from a woman’s perspective, instead of just being limited to my boyfriend’s male experiences.)

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28 Angie December 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm

This was great- thank you! One thing I have a question about. My son is biracial (or quarter racial? Husband is biracial, so whatever from that ha ha) and people CONSTANTLY comment on how biracial (or “mixed” is what most say) babies are THE CUTEST. You mentioned that that wasn’t a compliment and you correct people- you seem like a classy and polite girl, so what do you say? I never know what to say in those situations.

Thanks for this. Also, I think people need not assume that everyone non-white or in interracial relationship is really excited to talk about it. Like people think we would love to sit down and chat about the challenges, problems, etc- for real. I don’t ask my white friends what it’s like to be in a relationship with an asshole and how they’re dealing with it (if one of them happens to be one), so why is this ok?! Gets to me, I tell ya.

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29 Rachel December 19, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I always say, “Well, thank you, I appreciate that…but that’s not entirely true!” Then I just go on and kinda make a joke out of it while being pretty blunt, “No, seriously, it’s SUPER hit or miss and trust me, things can go wrong. You see the Halle Berry types and think it’s so…but, yeah…my mom was pretty worried about how I’d turn out. And honestly, most of what you’re seeing right now is a direct result of powder, paint, and plastic surgery.”

Heh.

Also, I honestly get so fucking excited every time I see an interracial couple, I have to fight that urge to run up to them and say, “I REALLY LOVE WHAT YOU GUYS ARE DOING! LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW YOUR KIDS MIGHT FEEL!!!” It’s just so fucking validating to me. But…yeah, I understand what it’s like to be treated like a freak show.

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30 [SMASH] December 21, 2011 at 9:39 am

I’ve noticed that A LOT MORE advertisers are starting to incorporate inter-racial couples in their major market ad campaigns. I think it’s SO refreshing to see this!

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31 Ellyn June 19, 2012 at 2:42 am

I know I am a little late to the conversation given the date of these posts. But I want to Thank you as well for your honesty. I am glad that Google found you! My husband and I are that biracial couple that needs the advice that you have to give with our two amazing children. Our son is about to be 5 and we have been taking a lot about how to talk with him about race and culture. I want to be more proactive, but my husband wants him to stay “protected”. We currently live in a rural community that is 95% white and he will be starting Kindergarten at a school that is very white (100% white staff and a handful of students who are biracial) I am a teacher at the High School in the community and grew up in the area with well known parents, so I am not too worried about his teacher I know her, but I am concerned about the students) Scratch that I am concerned about my beautiful open hearted sensitive little boy. He can easily have his feelings hurt and I do not want our first conversations with him about his racial identity to be as a result of a negative incident from an ignorant person. I feel very strongly that I want my children’s relationship with race to be a positive one that comes from a place of pride and acceptance. How did your parents talk to you? When did they start?

It is a long story how we got here, and we are planning on moving next year to a MUCH more diverse area. But I don’t think that moving to another area in the answer.

I gota tell you when I see older biracial couples I want to go and thank them for all that they did so that my husband and I could be together. My husband teases me and tells me that it could be their first date :) Even though he jokes we have instituted ever since we have been together a MLKjr Breakfast. Where as part of our celebration of the day we go to breakfast and toast all of the biracial couples that came before us that allows us the privilage to go any where we chose together. Our children have been a part of this, but we haven’t really went into much details since our is son 4 1/2 and daughter 15months.

Thanks for your love and passion!

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32 Rachel June 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I loved everything about this comment! I worry about raising an interracial child too, and I’m in NO way an expert on how to do it “right,” but if I had to do it right now, my approach would be this: Be proactive and do it in a way that makes him feel like he’s SPECIAL. I don’t remember being ashamed of my race when I was young, or scared that people might see me differently, because I feel like my parents were really great about helping me see that being biracial was special and awesome. It’s not like they reminded me every day that I was different, so I didn’t really see myself as different (and neither did most kids), but when it was relevant, they definitely pointed out that it was a cool special thing, and so on some level I knew that I had a cool, special thing about me. I think that built up my confidence so if anyone DID act ignorant, I was able to easily assume the other person was wrong, not that there was something wrong with me. And I think the more you teach kids to have patience with people who don’t know and who are curious, and encourage them to teach their new friends, the better off you’ll be. I grew up in the city, so I think talking about race/culture was unavoidable (because there are so many races/cultures to learn about!), but I feel like you kinda HAVE to talk about it, wherever you are, you know?

Also, a brunch to toast the biracial couples who have gone before us sounds AWESOME!

Please keep in touch! E-mail me with updates. :)

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33 Don Sullivan December 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm

“You talk about race too much” makes the most sense if you just append “for my comfort” to the end of it. Same goes for “feminism”, “gay rights” or any other uncomfortable topic.

Racial differences exist. Black girl hair exists. The fixation on a supposedly post-racial society is a white, privileged male view on how things should be now, because, like you said, us white privileged males would really like to just declare racism & equality over.

It would be so much easier if it were true, but wishing does not make it so. Talk about race just the right amount, Rachel, and hopefully your friends/readers can realize that if it makes them uncomfortable then we haven’t talked about it enough, yet.

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34 Heather December 20, 2011 at 2:23 pm

YES. YES. YES. ““You talk about race too much” makes the most sense if you just append “for my comfort” to the end of it. Same goes for “feminism”, “gay rights” or any other uncomfortable topic.” – perfect. Thank you.

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35 Stephanie December 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm

This was a really interesting post. I am in a biracial marriage (I’m white and my husband is Asian). We lived in a big city for ages and mixed-race families were really common. Here in rural Eastern Canada…not so much. People tell us all the time: “oh you should have kids, biracial kids are so cute.” 1) Yeah, working on it, not as easy as we thought it would be and 2) what a strange comment.

My brother is also married to an Asian woman, and his kids are really cute…and about as Asian-looking as they come. When my niece was little, my brother and I were in the grocery store and someone came up to ask my brother “Did you adopt her from China?” His answer, loud and proud: “Nope, I made her myself!”. To this day, people assume my niece is adopted if her mom isn’t with them.

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36 Carrie @ No More Tomorrows December 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I grew up in a very non-diverse kansas town. I always thought I was open minded and not racist or prejudice. And I still don’t think I ever was. But I was definitely ignorant. I was outspoken about how bad racism was, but never understood the reality until a year ago when I met the man I’m dating now. I saw pieces of it, but nothing like what I understand now.

Three and a half years ago I became pregnant. The father was black and so I started learning how to take care of my son’s hair, etc. Sadly, I was not given the opportunity to be his mom in this life as he passed in utero and was stillborn. But, even with my son no longer living, I still know that he is my son, and it angers me to my core to hear racist comments. I take offense to them, even though I am white.

The fact is, I am not interested in white men. Therefore, whether it works out with my now boyfriend, or not, I will most likely never have fully white children. Right now all I feel is anger towards racism and ignorance. I’m learning to be able to have a back bone without being angry and reacting in a way that is not helpful.

Zora Howard is a poet who does a piece called “Bi-racial hair” and I love it.

Knowing what I know now, and listening to people from where I’m from, I realize how far I’ve come in learning the reality of what it means to not be white, or not look white, or be fully white in this country. Racism is very real, and well-meaning people do a lot to further the problem without even realizing it.

I could talk about this subject forever. I’m sorry if I rambled.

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37 Rachel December 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

It always breaks my heart to read comments about your son because I can’t even fathom that kind of loss and pain and I’m so sorry that that happened to you. But PLEASE always feel free to “ramble” here — I love hearing from you and I love how you have such a strong tie to biracial (and black) culture.

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38 Carrie @ No More Tomorrows December 20, 2011 at 11:54 am

Thank you. I hope you’re never able to understand that kind of loss. I wish no one could.

I find the subject of race, ethnicity and culture to be fascinating. Both in positive ways and in negative, because I’m horrified by the evils that have happened in the world based solely on the hatred of a person because of their race. My boyfriend was beat by a cop because he was black. If he hadn’t fought back he probably would have been killed. I can’t imagine. He also told me recently I’m the first white person in his life who he has never had racial issues with. Any person he’s gotten close to as a friend or girlfriend, has eventually screwed him over in some way. He said that he realized that at the end of the day they still viewed him as less than deserving of their respect because of his race. I’m pretty sure that as much as he knows me and knows I’m a genuine person and will never do that to him, that he holds back from really pursuing a future with me because he’s waiting for me to use my race against him. He’s got a friend in jail for 20 years because his girlfriend decided to play the white card and had him arrested because she didn’t get her way in an argument. Even after she came to her senses and got over her attitude, she tried to drop the charges, but the state still pursued it. It’s disgusting. And honestly? Some days I hate my own race. As harsh as that is to say, it’s something I struggle with, to know when somebody looks at me they may be reminded of all the bad things my people have done to them. But at the end of the day I can only be me, and stand on my own merit, and hope people see me for who I am.

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39 Eszter December 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Great post, and I fully agree: it’s better to inform people , preferably with a great sense of humour. I don’t think anybody should feel uncomfortable talking about race, it’s just a part of who we are… and we do not have to make the mistakes of our ancestors. In fact, the only way we can avoid making those mistakes is by voicing our feelings, opinions and sharing experiences with each other. I do believe in cross-cultural discussions: I know that people are often afraid of what they are not familiar with, and fear might often lead to prejudice and hate. (Okay, “mistake” is quite an euphemism when talking about serious stuff like genocide, slavery or holocaust, but you know what I mean…)

Talking about race, I have a question but never had the chance to ask anyone about it. Is it true that the more versatile one’s gene pool is/the more mixed-race somebody is the healthier they are? I remember learning at Biology that the kids of a black and white couple tend to have a really strong immune system and barely ever catch a cold and stuff. Is this true or are we talking about another silly generalisation? I thought a biracial health blogger would be the most appropriate person to ask. :DDD

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40 Mel December 19, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Rachel, thank you, this is another one of your posts where I truly feel as if I’m listening to the perspective of an older, wiser sister. I really appreciate your ability to draw attention to important topics with passion, logic and humor. I know I will be rethinking some of my attitudes after reading this post and comments (re: I’ve been guilty of the cute bi-racial baby comment..though never to strangers!).

It may sound strange, but much how you describe feeling like a liaison or someone who needs to teach others (both the pros and the cons) is how I feel about my being Jewish. (Plus the racial headache that comes with being white but also having a family full of Holocaust survivors.)

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41 cindylu December 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

First off, I don’t think you talk about race too much. You talk about your experiences, and your experiences happen to come through a frame of reference that is both black and white and you’ve had many years to reflect on that.

Second, I find myself getting upset frequently at what I see as plain old ignorant and borderline racist comments frequently on blogs. As a woman of color, it’s really tough to reign in my “angry Chicana” and just yell out “that’s racist!” I know that may make people uncomfortable or I may be accused of being too sensitive or PC. I don’t think I’m either one. I can deal with a lot and often the comments that I read are just plain wrong. I try not to worry about making people uncomfortable when it comes to race; I’ve been the uncomfortable person way more often than I’ve spoken up about those comments. I think when people who are part of some dominant group (doesn’t have to be race, it can be men in a male dominated profession, straight people, etc) they don’t really experience this sense of being uncomfortable frequently the time that people of color (or gay people, or poor people in a more middle/upper class environment) are so used to. So, when I say that making a certain comment is not cool, it’s ignorant or racist, I think I’m just giving those people a taste of their own medicine.

There’s a time and a place for being the angry woman of color and for being the educating woman of color. I can tire of both roles, especially the latter because it takes a lot more effort.

By the way, I’m one of those readers who will have mixed children someday.

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42 jamey December 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm

This is nice to read after being called a “half-breed” yesterday by an angry older black man who I guess was offended by my white mom choosing to procreate with a black man. Oh the horror! Too bad it didn’t phase me at all since I’m used to that kind of shit from the mouths of ignorant people both white and black. My kids are going to be super mixed–white, black, and asian…I guess I’ll brace myself for the “is that your kid?” bs that I’ve heard for all of my life except they’ll be asking me. Que sera sera.

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43 EricaLS December 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm

people are truly horrible, it surprises me everyday. i’m sorry that happened to you

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44 jessi December 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm

this is awesome! as your run of the mill white girl, i appreciate your openness about race because you’re right, people really want to be educated. thank you!! you’re wonderful!!

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45 Christie F December 19, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Honestly, I’ve said this before, Rachel, and I’ll say it again. I had no idea you were mixed. I just thought “oh hey, she’s pretty, she’s funny, and she likes to talk about things that no one else seems to want to say.” I think I was reading for a long while before I actually stumbled upon the fact that you are bi-racial. I think it was in the post about your dad? I can’t remember.

I can admit I am totally uncomfortable around people of another race, simply because I grew up in a mostly white community. It’s an adjustment, but I wouldn’t say I’m appalled/scared/nervous by any of it. It’s just something I am not used to. I still live in a predominantly white community, so it’s still tough to branch out and gain new insights. That’s why blogs like this are so helpful. You put it all out there, so people can ask their questions and not feel like they are doing something wrong. Of course, there is still a matter of personal preference involved too. While you hate your hair touched, for example, another person might love to show off the texture/color/differences.

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46 EricaLS December 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm

This was a great post. I don’t think you ever post too much about race at all and people who complain about it don’t want to recognize that people still care about race and for some people it’s an issue.

The last two paragraphs of this made me cry earlier while I was at work on my phone and couldn’t respond. The way you described feeling and my cousins’ (who are mixed race) lives is why frequently I’m not comfortable thinking about having mixed race babies. I love my boyfriend more than I could ever imagine and I do want to have children with him (in the waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay far away future), but I don’t want them to have a difficult life. But just knowing that I can prepare them and teach them and show them that mixed race children are as beautiful as all other children is reassuring. This post reassured me so I thank you for that. I know I can’t prepare my future children for all terrible things in life (because so many awful race things happened to me that I was never prepared for) but I can at least give them a heads up.

As a side note, I also always feel like the angry black woman, which I guess sometimes i can’t help but I’ve embraced it. Also, I really loved Coral when she was on the Challenges but not on her season, because I did find her abrasive. But, I also didn’t live with anyone who had uninformed views on people of other races.

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47 Rachel December 20, 2011 at 10:45 am

PLEASE don’t let this make you not want to have mixed-race babies! I meant it to show you that things are getting better, that at least you’ll KNOW about this stuff and, like you said, be prepared. There are so many biracial and multiracial people these days and I FIRMLY believe things will get easier for each generation!

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48 Carrie @ No More Tomorrows December 20, 2011 at 11:35 am

I remember from being a child my mom making a statement about interriacial marriages and biracial children and saying that she wasn’t racist but that she thought it was just too hard for the kids. When I became pregnant, I didn’t tell my family until I was almost in the 2nd trimester because I was scared. A big reason was I was single and randomly knocked up by someone I just met, but the bigger reason was because my son was going to be biracial, and I was worried about my family. I was also worried about bring a biracial child into the world because a guy I had dated before that was biracial and completely messed up in the head about his identity.

At the end of the day I realized I am going to raise a biracial child the way I would raise any child, to be confident in who they are, where they came from, to always know they are loved, and to be able to be a strong person regardless of who wants to try and cut them down for whatever someone else deems worth criticizing.

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49 Eunice December 19, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Keep talking about race! I’m fascinated by all races and cultures, and like you said, the best way to learn about them is to talk to the people living it. And you’re right, not all mixed babies are cute. But I sure hope mine are!

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50 Kristine B December 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

If you talked about race, I honestly haven’t noticed it or maybe I just haven’t been following you long enough. And when I see a picture of you, I don’t think “Gee I wonder what race she is?” I think “She’s so pretty!”

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51 Jennifer December 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Thank you for writing this! I’m glad you talk about race because I may have a biracial child one day myself and I do, just as you said, like learning about what life was like growing up with a white mother and black father, or vice versa. So thanks for discussing the subject! It shouldn’t be taboo!

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52 Hana December 20, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Thanks for sharing Rachel! I think it is so important to talk about race because you’re right – you not only get to educate people, but show where your boundaries are before they get crossed. I love hearing about other people’s experiences being mixed, as I’m also black, white and Japanese. I’ve written a bit about it on my own blog (http://www.sticksnstonesblog.com/2011/09/i-am-mixed-hear-me-roar.html), but have you checked out Mixed Chicks Chat? It’s an awesome podcast where they talk about the mixed experience and how it’s different for…well everyone. Also, loved your half-black history month graphic :)

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53 Rachel December 20, 2011 at 5:28 pm

I had’t heard of Mixed Chicks Chat, so thanks for sharing! And heading to check out your blog post now…just from the URL, I’m already excited!!

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54 Hana December 22, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Sweet! Hope you enjoy it :)

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55 [SMASH] December 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Kudos on this post, Rachel. I love that you talk about it openly and I’m sure it helps those who are bi-racial and those of us who aren’t. Will have to come back again soon just to read all the comments everyone wrote!

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56 Kavi December 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

Rachel, thanks for sharing this. Open dialogue is a great thing! The comedian Russell Peters has a great bit about race, in which he says that it’s all a moot point because at the rate we’re mixing, the entire human population will soon be beige ;)

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57 Nicole @ Giraffelegs December 21, 2011 at 1:35 pm

This is one of my favorite posts ever. You are spot on. I love telling people why my last name is Gomez, bc frankly I am sick and tired of hearing “you are too white to me mexican” “why do you have blue eyes” “blonde hair?”

First of all Mexico is ONE Hispanic country out of several, so are you sure I am from Mexico?
Second of all HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO EUROPE?! A lot of women is Spain are fair skinned.

Bite me bitches.

xxxxxx

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58 Kionda January 1, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I feel your pain. With me being mixed race as well I get it from both sides. Surprisingly more from the black side. Well maybe not so surprising. There’s been a color war between us for quite a while now. I’m light skinned so therefore I’m confused. Pish Posh!

Talking about does educate the ignorant. Go ‘head and do what you do. For those that do not understand or disapprove they are just closed to the knowledge. Keep moving forward.

Happy New Year! Looking forward to new posts from you. :)

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