“I am more complex than my complexion.” –Lasha Marie, Mulatto Empowerment
Welcome to The Complexion Chronicles, a twice-monthly column where we’ll explore the complexities that shape and color our lives. This is a special edition of the Complexion Chronicles.
The parade of Black American bodies beaten and felled by police is overwhelming.
Too many lives extinguished in their prime, too many names becoming hashtags.
Too many “I thought it was a weapon,” “I was afraid for my life,” and “I don’t know” responses to “Why did you shoot me/him/her/them?
Too many leaders—politicians, ministers, celebrities—admonishing the Blackpeople to stay calm, rely on prayer, forgive amid the fresh rawness of maddening pain.
Too few officers facing any consequences at all. Because: “Just Us.”
Each new incident plunges the entire nation into a whirlwind of grief, rage, trauma and growing hostility and mistrust. The Race War we’ve been threatened with isn’t coming. It is here already. In the hashtag stories, in the presidential election, in the comments on any and all news story, blog, opinion piece, column or social media post.
There is more hatred than hope.
More fear than faith.
More tension than tolerance.
Which is why I haven’t written this column for a while.
I’ve had ideas, jotted notes, made outlines, drafted catchy headlines and pithy paragraphs….and then, inevitably, fizzled out.
I’m struggling to get my brain cells in formation to keep working on my identity memoir.
Because I keep returning to the thought that these days, Mixed identity is a back-burner topic at best. That it’s just not any kind of priority in the face of bullets, blood and trauma squared.
I simply couldn’t summon my usual sense of urgency in this state of racial emergency.
And just when I’m prepared to set it down for a minute so I’ll have both hands free to pick up other, more important causes, something happens.
One Facebook friend who isn’t Mixed randomly posts a critique of how Black-and Mixed folks self-identify (seemingly out of nowhere). Another wonders publicly whether Mixed-race people are really qualified to speak on Black Lives Matter. And fading celebrity Bow Wow posts that he’s not voting in the presidential election because his Mixed-race background (which apparently nobody including his mother knew about until now) keeps him from identifying with the Civil Rights Movement.
Even against the backdrop of the continuing saga of the police vs. Black America, even in the heat of the Republican and Democratic national conventions and nominations of official candidates, Mixed identity and issues manage to keep popping up in the public consciousness. We might make headlines only when someone famous says something “controversial,” as in Bow Wow’s sad bid for attention. But even a couple of random posts on the topic of us sparked long, heated threads and passionate debates. For reasons I am still working to understand, many non-Mixed people care deeply about how we self-identify and move through the world. And the mere mention of “Mixed-race” triggers deep feelings and strong opinions.
I wonder if these are signs from my Ancestors that the work around Mixed identity issues still needs to be done. While it’s not the “lead story” in these racially perilous times, it remains a through-line winding through our history, communities and families to challenge outdated notions of culture and identity. And something we must delve into, decipher and decode as we work to end racism, to defend Black lives and humanity, and to make sure we wisely navigate a racially-charged presidential election.
Being Mixed means that we are multi-dimensional enough to care deeply about more than one topic, keep our priorities in order, and find the points of intersectionality in our various causes and struggles. The end goal is the same: to be recognized and treated as human. To have equal access to the options and opportunities as those who create the laws that impact our lives. To matter.
Black movements and Mixed identity can matter at the same time, if not at the same level of intensity. We have never been separate in this racialized world. Our lives are never either/or, even in the face of devastating tragedy. We are the “and” that connects the many concerns and struggles that we’re facing today. Our Ancestry is our roots; our identities are our wings. And we each bring a powerful and necessary version of truth to whatever conversations and situations we encounter on our journeys towards healing and wholeness and the dawn of a brighter day.