Race In America: A Conversation in Shades
Me, a mom of three biracial kids, sitting on the porch talking with my three biracial/multiracial grandkids talking about race in America.
Would you mind coming over here for a minute?
No, no. You’re not in trouble. I wanna talk to you about something. It’s something that has been on my mind for awhile now. I just haven’t had the opportunity to bring it up until now.
You’re big sports fans, right? Who are your favorite teams again?
Steelers, Patriots and 49ers? Really? laughing Boy oh boy, I gotta talk to your parents about that.
You know that thing that Rodney Harrison said about Colin Kaepernick? You know. The one where he ignorantly said Kaepernick wasn’t black.
Yeah, we talked about that didn’t we? Well see, there were quite a few folks upset about that comment. Oh, you know that already, huh? And, I’m sure you know why they were all upset too. Yeah, well, lots of media decided to write, talk and tweet about it. But, not many, if any at all, said this:
— Sage Steele (@sagesteele) August 30, 2016
What do you think about that? Do you think there is a racist double standard?
What do I think? Hmm. I’m glad you asked that question. For a looooooong time I’ve been thinking about this question. Ever since my oldest child, my daughter, was born – points at at two of the kids and says, “Your mother – I’ve been wondering about the world she would be raised in as a biracial kid. I saw the struggle to be accepted, to fit in, the inner turmoil at not being either-enough, according to society. I thought about it even more after her brothers were born.
What kind of world…
What kind of world do we live in that only looks at skin color? Skin color doesn’t define who you are, but many say it does. They look at a Sage Steele and say she’s black. They look at the outside without consideration of the inside. Without considering her heritage, which by the way is “50 percent” white (Irish and Italian), they say she’s black.
Heritage matters, kids.
Heritage, culture – where you came from matters. Who came before you matters. It’s all a part of you just as much as the skin on your body. Why deny who or what is a part of you?
See, society wants it all cut & dry. Society wants things to be easily identifiable. Society wants the t’s crossed and the i’s dotted. Society doesn’t want to ask the question – what are you? – so they just assume. Based on your skin color. Or your facial features. Or your hair. Or, whatever.
That’s not right, kids. It’s just not right.
Like Sage said, if you’re good, one group claims you. If you’re not, they disown you. Even if you “look” like them, they will disown you if you don’t act/talk/think like them.
It don’t matter the race. It happens in all races, man. All races and all countries. Don’t believe me? I’ve got some stories for you:
- The story of Giovani Dos Santos and Mexican Blackness
- Sage Steele on being mixed race
- Black Twitter and Lolo Jones
- Brazil’s Rafaela Silva doesn’t fit the mold
Y’all pay attention because there are plenty more out there. More stories of mixed race folks who have been embraced and/or shunned by one side or the other. It’s almost as if there’s a mindset “if you ain’t with US, you’re against us and we won’t claim you”.
Yet, those same people, those SAME PEOPLE talk about wanting equality for their race. They want diversity. They want to be treated fairly. But, when someone of mixed race doesn’t ACT like a certain race, equality goes out the window because what they’re really saying is
You’re not black enough.
You’re not Hispanic enough.
You’re not Native enough.
You’re not Asian enough.
Heck, there’s even, you’re not white enough.
You mean to tell me if someone of mixed-race doesn’t pick one that they can’t speak on an issue? Why? Because he or she doesn’t fit people’s definition of that race. It doesn’t fit their ideal of what a Hispanic should be or an African-American should be or……
Man, that’s just messed up.
Tiger Woods was great for a time, but then that one Thanksgiving time happened and now where is he? Where are all the people who embraced him? Where are all the people who were happy about the barriers he was breaking down? Like Sage said, “claim us biracial kids when it’s convenient for u”, is that how it is? Tiger was okay to claim when he was at the top but now?
Lord have mercy…
Let me tell you a story. Last night, while sitting with our youngest – points and says “Your uncle” – this exact thing came up while he was filling out paperwork. One question asked him to identify himself. I immediately said, HISPANIC, knowing full well his dad would say something.
He didn’t have to. There was a feeling in the air of…I’m not even sure how to describe it, but you could feel it. Not quite tension but…
So I asked our youngest, is there a mixed-race category? Bi-racial? Nothing like that existed on this form. So, I told him to put both Hispanic and Caucasian. His dad pipes up, Caucasian-Hispanic.
Now, we were joking a little bit about it, but what that feeling in the air was, was disrespect. It was marginalization. I marginalized his race, who he was, his heritage, his very identity. All because I wanted our youngest to claim me, who I am, my heritage (and culture), my very identity.
Here I was marginalizing one race to promote my own.
Is it possible, let me ask you this question now, is it possible to not look at race all the while fighting for racial identity with every fiber of one’s being? Is it possible, or maybe I should ask, will social media allow one to be angry about where we are at in this country on the topic of race, yet still not look at someone’s race — just look at them as a person, a human being like you and me?
Seems to me that if we want change, we have to go to the root of the issue. The root of the issue starts at home. At home, we need to teach our young to respect people as human beings. A lot of folks say, “You have to earn respect.” Well, yes, but not if there are different levels of respect, y’all.
The respect I’m talking about can’t be earned. It’s given. Freely. Respect the fact that the person you disagree with is a human being. We won’t always agree with people, but we at least need to respect them as people. As a living breathing human being.
If we did that, maybe there’d be less killing in the world. A little less anger. A little less hate. A little less judgement. A little less hypocrisy.
Maybe we should listen to what Otis sang, “Try a Little Tenderness”. Or, try a little kindness. Try a little respect. Be willing to listen. Be willing to learn. Shoot, maybe even be willing to be wrong.
Yeah, that wouldn’t go over too well on social media now would it? Ain’t no shame in admitting when you’re wrong, kids.
Maybe just a little more kindness, a little more people-to-people kindness and a little less Twitter. A little less Facebook. A little less Instagramming, YouTubing and Snapchatting. A little less selfie action. Less self and more others.
Do unto others, my loves, as you would have them do unto you…and you, YES YOU, just might change this country and this world.
For the better.