Written by Penelope Farthing
My blog post about categorizing a person with one black parent and one nonblack parent as biracial has gone somewhat viral, with over 400 comments left on the Facebook post at time of writing. I have learned dozens of lessons from the comments I did read, but I will only go into a few on this post. Thank you to our supporters (and former supporters, because a few people were ~triggered~ and stormed off in a huff) for participating in the dialog. Here are just a few things I took away.
Even though I like writing about topics that will get the people going, 400+ comments is a lot. But it stemmed from me calling a person with two parents of different races biracial. Why did it kick up such a fuss when I dared to say that red and blue make purple, and that purple, while made up of red and blue, is neither red, nor blue, but both? Why did it get so many people so hot under the collar? What is the big deal of distinguishing between a black person with two black parents, and a person with one black parent? How is it that obviously nonblack women get to hold the title of being black when bestowed upon them by black men, but when black women do it, we beef in a social media comment section?
I was pretty surprised when I saw a few white women commenters participating, almost championing for biracials to be pushed into the blackness fold. For some it made sense, as they said they have children with a black father, and as a result, have a vested interest in these conversations. But a small number were there, getting into back and forths with various people, when from a brief social media perusal, I saw no indication of why they would have such passion for this conversation.
From the looks of it, the definition of black is hotly contested. Everyone knows what white means, what it looks like, and who is and isn’t (for the most part). The very term “white-passing” means that the state of being white has a look that can be visually identified, and is separate from what black is/looks like. Is there such a thing as “black-passing”? I’ve never heard it, but If so, let me know in the comments.
The same goes for Asian people of all ethnicities. Japanese people in particular have no qualms about defining not just their state of being Asian, but the state of being Japanese, to the point where even people born of one Japanese parent and one non-Japanese parent, raised in Japan, and speak native Japanese, are designated as such. I do not agree with the prejudice the product of those unions face, I am just pointing out that they make the distinction. Even children born of a Japanese person and a different nationality of Asian person, such as Chinese or Vietnamese, get the distinction made, despite being 100% Asian.
Since blackness has no definition, that’s why it’s so easy for people with one black parent and one nonblack parent to get pulled in and out of it. Take for instance Misty Copeland, who, though mixed herself, gets lumped in to the #blackgirlmagic tags due to her absolute majesty and grace in her art of ballet. Compare that to Zazie Beetz, who not too long ago revealed that she prefers to take a little cat bath (tits, pits, and naughty bits, basically), and black people were attributing her choice in hygiene practices to her white side. Alexandra Shipp is reviled, and Zendaya is revered. Tia is the black twin since her husband is black, but Tamera is the reject twin since her husband is not just white, but worked for Fox News!!! So basically, black people claim the “unproblematic” biracials, and spurn the ones that don’t mesh with the definition of blackness for the day. Being black is more so a state of mind, or a feeling, rather than something encoded onto DNA.
Colorism is bad and needs to be done away with, but sadly it’ll be around to stay for a while. If you think leaving the definition of black open to interpretation will be the cure for colorism, you may want to rethink that stance. Additionally, not because colorism is bad means that a section of people don’t benefit from it. Some people took offense at me saying that there were certain privileges that came with being biracial, and there are. Not because you specifically did not benefit from colorism as a biracial person means it doesn’t happen. Not because you haven’t personally experienced the negative effects of colorism means it doesn’t happen. I’ve never given birth, for example, but I do know it is a painful experience. There is a reason why biracial people, the women in particular, of a certain phenotype, are celebrated for the light skin, the light eyes, and of course, the “good hair”. Their proximity to nonblackness grants them privilege, whether it is to be “preferred” (for a role, a job, or a partner), all the way up to receiving lighter sentences for a crime. All biracials do not get this extended to them, but it is indeed a thing that exists.
It was pretty evident that people just launched into rage mode from the two-sentence snippet posted on Facebook. They brought up points I addressed in the blog, and let their ignorance show freely. I’m not going to go into this point in detail as I will be writing a blog on this separately at a later date.
Honestly, I’m honored that my humble post caused such a commotion. My intention isn’t to offend (this time) but to spark a discussion. With all that said, I stand by original statement in the first blog – biracial is biracial, and that’s perfectly fine.
Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Penelope Farthing, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.