What is the true definition of race? Many people say that a person’s race is determined solely by their culture. Many people say that a person’s skin complexion has a great role in their race. Still, others argue that race is merely a socially constructed idea, in which people try to bring together multiple elements (skin tone, social class, intelligence level) and place them under the same category. With the rise in globalization and the increase of immigrants on American soil, cultures are undeniably beginning to mix. This has also caused a sprouting generation of biracial children in America and ultimately makes it more difficult for people to find a formal definition of race.
As a side note, this picture appeared on Times Magazine’s cover. The author expressed that the mixed race is the “new face of America.” The creators of this cover is essentially supporting the idea that there has been an overwhelming increase in intermarriage and interracial relationships and this in essence has led to progeny who have the ability to check multiple race boxes.
According to “Interracial Romance” in NSS, the increase in interracial relationships (and cultural intermixing) leads to the false impression that racism and discrimination are lessening in the American society. However, although this mixing is clearly not indicative of a utopian world where all races get along, it is within these interracial relationships that Americans are able to foster change and strive to a society that rallies around the idea that “people are just people despite what race they are.” It is perhaps through having mixed children that Americans may finally be able to view each other as one race. Despite this logic sounding extremely ridiculous, especially with the racial tension that is occurring in Ferguson, it is relatively easy to draw this conclusion based on the experiences of biracial individuals in comparison to full-bred individuals. Still, the experience of biracial individuals themselves does not equate to perfection; they are solely judged on their physical profile (skin tone) and this largely contributes to their social standing as a whole.
As aforementioned, America might profit from having a large multiracial population, due to the fact that people would be able to form neutral stances in regard to racial issues, but the biracial individuals would still suffer from their own sense of oppression. People still judge biracial individuals identities based on skin tone and this might perpetuate identity dissonance.
In an except in “Claiming: White Ambition, Multiracial Identity, and the New American Racial Passing,” Meredith McCarroll emphasizes this point by stating, “Celebrities such as Cameron Diaz, Keanu Reeves, and Benjamin Bratt are all multiracial but are read as white and have access to white privilege, while other figures and high profile multiracial individuals, such as Halle Berry Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, and Barack Obama are continually seen as black. The difference is only physical.”
For example, George Lopez contributes to the ongoing discourse about biracial individuals being boxed into certain categories despite being mixed breed. During a stand up comic in December of 2009, Lopez poses the question “What color are you?” to the pop icon Mariah Carey. Carey responded that she was of Latino and African American descent but that Americans only see her as a black woman. She references the “one drop rule,” a rule established by slave owners that declares that a drop of black de facto makes you black. She uses this rule to explain why the public acknowledges only half of her identity.
In addition, the same issue occurs with the beloved actress Halle Berry. During another comedy skit, Dave Chappelle highlights how people are so invested in Halle Berry’s race despite her self-described identity. During an interview with Ebony Magazine, Berry explains how she views her and her biracial daughter (who is also the daughter of white model Gabriel Aubrey) as black:
“I had to decide for myself and that’s what she’s going to have to decide- how she identifies in the world. And I think, largely, that will be based on how the world identifies her. That’s how I identify myself. But I feel like she’s Black. I’m Black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory.”
When comparing their experience to that of biracial individuals who appear white, it is relatively easing to juxtapose the experiences of the people. Despite being Latino, Cameron Diaz appears as a typical white woman. With society forcing this white image on her, Diaz is able to experience everything that is associated with white privilege and white supremacy. In the grand scheme of things, her identity is never questioned and her Latina descent rarely comes up in dialogue. This is definitely extremely different from her counters, Carey and Barry, whose identities and “whiteness” is often questioned due to their darker skin complexion.
With both Carey and Berry making references to the “one drop rule” after the 2000 census and the election of a mixed race president, this suggest that the racial past still continues to shape the way the mixed race is due today. Even the most well-known and idolized figures that are biracial still are not “post race.” While Berry brings up an additional point about how a person’s identity is shaped, in part, by the way society perceives them, she also emphasizes societies role to label individuals based on color. Color plays a pivotal role in a person’s overall experience.
Humanity has a larger issue with labeling. People are labeled based on how they express their sexuality. People are labeled based on the their overall behaviors and mannerisms. In this particular case, people are labeled based on their skin complexion.
Do you feel that more biracial children in the population would essentially disseminate societies obsession with defining people’s race or do you feel that racial hierarchies will still exist in the biracial community based on skin complexion? How do you feel that that the obsession with skin tone also perpetuates the idea of white supremacy and black inferiority?