The Complexion Chronicles
What Would Being ‘Unapologetically Mixed’ Look Like?
By TaRessa Stovall
Unapologetic Blackness is increasingly popular—and with good reason. For centuries, so many aspects of Black life and identity have been controlled by and defined in relation to the White gaze—Whiteness as norm, as default, as the baseline definition of “human.” The term “unapologetically Black” and the empowering energy it conveys defy that antiquated norm with the audacity of self-love, unconditional acceptance and definition on one’s own terms.
Damon Young of VerySmartBrothahs described “… the reality that unapologetic Blackness isn’t easy. Perhaps it’s a bit more trendy … but we exist in a place where much of what we’ve been taught and most of what we encounter aims to prevent us from feeling that way, and getting to a place where you’re both unscared to be your Black-ass self and embracing of that Black-ass self can be an arduous journey.”
Young described how to get to that place:
- Give Blackness a positive association … be proud of and unembarrassed by Blackness … removing negative connotations possessed with entities associated with Blackness.
- Surround yourself with people connected to and in favor of unapologetic Blackness.
- Give negative infinity fu**s about what White people think … stop crafting your thoughts and actions around what White People (collectively) might think if you thought or acted a certain way. Step outside of the White Gaze, and stay there.
- Embrace … Blackness that happens to be unlike your Blackness … if your love subjugates and discriminates, it’s not love … this journey includes all of us.
Recent public examples of unapologetic Blackness have included Beyoncé’s HBCU-loving performance as the first Black Woman to headline Coachella, and rapper Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize for his boldly articulated hip hop anthem, “DAMN.” In the CNN piece, “Beyoncé and Lamar Show What it Means to be ‘Unapologetically Black,’” John Blake writes, “Living under the white gaze can be exhausting: always worrying about what they may think, what they may do, how they may react if your subjects and verbs don’t agree … Part of what was so thrilling about Beyoncé’s and Lamar’s achievements is that they seemed indifferent to the White gaze. They weren’t arrested, killed or fired from their jobs. They were applauded.”
As a Mixed-Black African-American identified woman who finds no contradiction in these aspects of my life or identity, I want us to discuss what it might mean for ALL Multi-racial folks of all mixes and generations to get to a place of being “Unapologetically Mixed.”
Before you hit with me accusations of culturally appropriating the term and concept, let’s imagine and play with the possibilities of how it might feel and what it might mean for us to claim that kind of identity space.
What’s different for Mixed folks is that we tend to be identity policed by everybody, especially those folks whose Ancestry runs in our DNA and bloodlines. Add the fact that society has never been quite sure how to define (and therefore control) us, so we’re often constrained by the either/or dynamics of the White versus Black racial binary (even when that’s not our Mix), which leads to external confusion and contradictions for which we are often blamed.
The starting point for such a consideration must be the simple and overarching recognition of White supremacy which forms the foundation of our nation and continues to fuel laws, policies, economics and governance in every aspect of life for everyone. Unapologetic Blackness is based upon resisting that supremacy as it relates to definition and expression of self, and Unapologetic Mixedness contains aspects of that dynamic as well.
Since Mixed-race people are one of the few groups identity policed by Black and other People of Color as well as White supremacy, our approach to Unapologetic Mixedness might be complicated. Everyone—often including our closest loved ones—is accustomed to having and sharing their opinions about our identities, right? The way we look, act, speak, move through the world is constantly judged and discussed. So, an Unapologetic stance for us might have more moving parts operating on a fluid dynamic.
Here is my starting template for Unapologetic Mixedness. I share it simply to get the conversation going—please add YOURS in the comments!
- Honor ALL of your Ancestry. That doesn’t mean we have to like/love all of our Ancestors, approve of their choices or be happy about sharing their DNA. But it’s essential to acknowledge and honor them (even if you don’t know their specific names and stories) because without their lives unfolding exactly as they did, you would not be here in this time and place, your spirit housed in this body, with this specific purpose.
- Define yourself. If you don’t like the labels, definitions or categories offered, create your own based on YOUR truth. Flaunt them proudly—even if you get flak. Which you probably will, LOL. But hey, that’s part of being Mixed!
- Resist explaining yourself to others. Unless there is a compelling personal or legal reason for explaining your racial/ethnic identity, know that it is an option and exercise your right to choose. If you want to explain your background, how you self-identify and move through the world, cool. But please know that you rarely HAVE to do this. Much of the time, people pressuring you to justify yourself are doing it as a way to control or establish dominance over you. You can’t stop them, but most of the time you can resist.
- Reject others’ categories and definitions of you. You don’t have to argue, debate or convince them of anything, though you can choose to participate in that kind of exchange if you want to. You don’t have to take their attempts to police you personally or become upset, though it’s fine if you do. Just know that they don’t have the power to define you and you are not obligated to engage with them about who you are.
- Embrace the fact that your existence might be considered problematic. While the intensity might vary with your particular mix, where you live and what you look like, the truth is that even in 2018 with many people claiming they’re Kumbaya with swirling, the fact that we’re alive remains disturbing to many. The sight of us can trigger a lot of trauma, fear, anxieties and rage—all which come with racism. The dynamic of how we were created continues to push buttons and challenge folks’ own sense of identity. In so very many ways, we are not supposed to be here. Even while we’re often fetishized and hoisted onto the pedestal of colorism as specimens of alleged superiority to those who are less White than we are, that song is always running in the background. Know it. Admit it. Embrace it as part of your complicated truth.
I consider myself to be Unapologetically Mixed. I love who I am without apology. I understand why my spirit is in this particular very light-skinned, dark-haired, super-ambiguous-looking body in this time and place, and I fully embrace my purpose in this context. I recognize and respect how others might view and feel about me/us and while that is an inevitable part of being Mixed, I know that I do not have to explain, argue, defend, debate or justify myself to them. I am not here to change their minds or opinions. They don’t have to like, approve of, accept or understand me. When you are in touch with your Ancestors and your purpose, you can move through the world in this way.
What would being Unapologetically Mixed mean to YOU?