This week theGrio interviewed actor Taye Diggs about his new book “Mixed Me”. He said he wants his son, Walker to ‘embrace’ being mixed and not chose black or white. This is Diggs’ second book, his first entitled “Chocolate Me” is about his own experiences growing up in a mostly white neighborhood and being made fun of for being black.
Taye received praise and backlash for his comments. I see both sides. I’m not a parent and I’ve never been in an interracial relationship so my experiences are very limited but I’ll offer my opinion on why Taye’s comments are problematic. Only because Taye responded to backlash with “it’s not that deep” and Lori “Lolo” Jones (biracial) praised Taye’s comments and said the only race she’s claiming is the 100 meter hurdles.
In a perfect word, Taye’s son Walker would be able to not have to chose and live his life comfortably at the intersection of Black and Jewish. But that’s not reality in America and in a few years, Walker may be pulled over by the police and they won’t ask him if his mother is Jewish before they treat him like a black man.
It is very dangerous for Taye to encourage Walker’s biracial identity and not make him understand the fact that he will grow up to be a black man in America. Of course, I don’t know what conversations Taye has had with his son and I do believe that Taye is conscious enough to have the ‘black man conversation’ with his son. I do not think however that Taye is taking the history of this country into account. It IS THAT deep, Taye.
We can’t fully, affectively address racism until we (ALL OF US) are willing to admit that it does indeed exist. This country was built on principals of racism. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence “All men are created equal” and that obviously did not include black people since Jefferson owned some. In 1776 being considered a citizen meant that you were white and you were male. Black people in America, those who were enslaved were not considered human. They were property. They were 3/5ths of a person.
As a matter of fact, they edited the Declaration of Independence, deleting the controversial ‘anti-slavery’ passage. Abolitionist Thomas Day said “If there can be truly ridiculous in nature, it is an American patriot, signing the resolutions of independency with one hand, and with the other brandishing a whip over his affrighted slaves”. I agree Thomas. Ridiculous.
The economic institution of slavery survived for so long and birthed Jim Crow (and Jim Crow, II which is another blog entry for another day) because of the social institution of race. Scientists say there is no scientific genetic difference between the races. Western civilization uses skin color primarily to determine race but that isn’t full proof because Walker has darker skin than some people with two black parents. I have siblings and cousins that are lighter than Walker.
The point is that race is social. In our society, whiteness is at the top of the racial hierarchy and (dark-skinned) blackness is at the bottom.
It is rumored (not confirmed) that Thomas Jefferson (or his uncle) had several children with a woman he owned as a slave, Sally Hemings. Three of those children (daughter Harriet and sons Beverly, and Eston) looked white enough to ‘pass’ and lived as white people as adults (after their daddy-uncle freed them…) Had they favored their mother more, they wouldn’t have been able to integrate into society in America in the 1820’s.
There are no known photographs of Sally Hemings, it’s rumored that Sally’s mother was biracial and that Sally was the illegitimate daughter of John Wayles, who was Martha Jefferson’s daddy making her biracial as well. (What is that? 1.5 parts black and 2 parts white? Idk. Math isn’t my strong point) This is scandalous ain’t it?!? One of our f
orefathers (and the 3rd POTUS) was sleeping with his wife’s half sister and had kids with her. That makes the kids sister/brother-cousins. I can’t.
Anyway, I gave that history lesson to show how complicated, interesting and engrained the social construct that is race is in this country. Sally was black looking enough to be a slave. 3 of Sally’s kids were white looking enough to live as white people.
Walker Diggs certainly ain’t white looking enough to ‘pass’ and there will come a time that he will have to address his blackness. He simply does not get to decide to be not be black and be ‘mixed’ or ‘bi-racial’. Race isn’t personal. It’s societal. I’m purple and green as far as I’m concerned but my skin is chocolate and I have a foot of dreadlocs hanging off my head. There are some people in power that will see me as a
nigger black person regardless.
Lolo Jones ain’t ‘passing’ in the summertime either. She can decide to not claim any race but as my cousin said the world will tell her (and has already) just how black she is.
It could also be argued that Taye is pushing his own insecurities about himself and his race onto his son. Maybe he married a white woman and had a baby with her so his kids (and in turn him) would be able to enjoy some white privilege. We want our children to have better lives than we did right? I get that logic, but I believe that embracing yourself is a much more rewarding experience regardless of how society sees/treats you.
Maybe if Walker gets with a white woman, Taye Diggs’ grandson will be as white (looking) as Taye Diggs wants to be.
I understand why people want to deny/shrink/hide their blackness. Taye and Lolo wouldn’t have anything to say if being black in America didn’t come with a painful history and a stressful present. I challenge them and others to deal with it. Embrace that blackness, that skin, that nappy hair, them hips and that nose. This side of confidence and identity ain’t so bad. Plus we don’t age. THE POTUS done aged 20 years in 8 cause his momma white and FLOTUS hasn’t aged a day.
Well Wishes. Thank you for reading/supporting. Anybody a word press expert that can spruce up my site?