Who Gets To Decide Who’s Multiracial and Who’s Black?

In a recent article entitled: “It’s quite racist to call your mixed race friends black if they don’t identify as such”, British writer, Miranda Larbi writes: “To simply lump everyone together – including those who are of very light skin and who do not see themselves as ‘black’ – can be quite offensive.”

Before anyone jumps to conclusions that Ms. Larbi is suggesting that Multiracial people will take offense at being called Black, it is worth reading on.  What she actually is suggesting is that calling Multiracial (Black/White) people like herself  “Black” doesn’t honor the experience of Black people who have (or may have experienced) treatment that she never has had to face:

“How can someone as light as me be assigned the same label as someone with an experience of blackness that I can never relate to?

In beauty, fashion, relationships, careers – everything – our experience of race plays a role.  Not only is using blackness as an umbrella confusing for those of who are not fully black, but it downplays the significance of that experience for those who own it.

Black people have enough to worry about without us beige folk trying to share the stage.”

On the other side of this discussion is actress, Halle Berry, who some years ago, in an interview, said that notwithstanding the fact that both she and her daughter are Multiracial, they are Black (see report of interview here).

So, there you have it, two Multiracial (Black/White) people – Ms. Larbi and Ms. Berry – coming down on opposite sides of this discussion.  So, who’s right? And, who gets to decide?

It would seem that as with all questions of identity, the individual should be free to choose for himself or herself what their identity is.  Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where society should be able to make that decision.  In fact, living in a free society, by definition, means that people get to make these sorts of decisions for themselves.

What do you think?  Do you agree with Miranda Larbi?  Halle Berry?  Let us know.

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6 Responses to Who Gets To Decide Who’s Multiracial and Who’s Black?

  1. nem says:

    I agree with Halle Berry. I am biracial. When I was younger I was much darker than I am now, however now I am very light skinned. I don’t know why. I agree with Ms. Larbi too though, on that the struggle people with dark skin face is different than light skin, however I am not offended when I am reffered to as black like I am when I am reffered to as white. To me, when I am called white I take it like an insult because I feel like it denies my black and minority experience, which I DO have (which is a whole different discussion). When I am called black, I take less offense, because there isn’t really anything being denied. I haven’t really had a WHITE experience. Mostly just, too black to be white, and too light to be black to some. I think the biggest problem is that other people try to decide what we are for us. Also, I get labeled as hispanic and arabic and lots of other things I am not all the time too. I also think people, including myself, tie too much to a label. But idk. These are just thoughts I thought I’d share.

    • Alex Barnett says:

      Thank you for writing and sharing your vantage point. It is a complex issue, as your comment so well illustrates. We hope you will continue to visit with us and to share your views.

  2. Whether a person calls his or herself Bi-racial or Black is up to the individual, and since multiracial/Bi-racial people are not monolithic, I feel there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to identifying oneself.

    • Alex Barnett says:

      Thanks for writing in and sharing your perspective. We agree that it is a very personal decision for the individual. Please continue to visit the site and share your thoughts and perspectives. We really appreciate it.

  3. Joan says:

    Personally, being a truly multiracial mutt, I think we need to end the need to classify everyone. I get tired of the questions. I am a human being and I’m proud to be as individual as I am. A label doesn’t make me better or worse. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, I see a world where my children will not be judged by their skin color but by the content of their character.

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