Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 13:00 p.m. EDT, 30 August 2013
UNITED STATES – On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech,” America has been forced to reconfront the issue of ‘colorism’ in our society. I am purposely not using the word race because there is only one race, the human race.
However, in America and South Africa in particular, and in other countries to a lesser extent, the issue of color is complex and problematic, and is often the sole measure by which people are defined and relegated to particular groups in society.
I have faced the issue of color and acceptance most of my life. Most recently after the birth of my son whose father is not American, but German; I am constantly reminded of how limited the options are for people of mixed or biracial heritage when confronted with documents and other census gathering transactions that seek to categorize people by race.
With regard to organizations requesting the race of my son, I choose to enter ‘other’ or write in ‘biracial.’ In reviewing his records, I have often been chagrined to discover that an institution has subsequently change his assignation to Latino. In fact, most people who interact with my son and view him as Latino, emphasize their perception by pronouncing his name with Spanish accentuation, often changing it to ‘Javier’ though it is clearly not written as such.
This perception remains in force until they meet me, and then his race is changed to African-American which is wholly inaccurate. This lack of clarity and inability to fit neatly into ‘white’ or ‘black’ culture has caused my son to question me about why he is so light and I am brown? Why his hair is straight and mine is curly?
And at one point he identified himself as ‘white,’ until I emphasized the fact that he is biracial like President Barak Obama, and that he should not only be proud of his dual heritage, but should correct people who mistakenly believe him to be otherwise.
People often believe that I am Ethiopian or Somalian, and because my father though born in America has lived in Africa for the past 40-years, and I spent my childhood there, the cultural nuances of these societies resonate with me more than Black American culture.
As you can see from the video below, my struggle and that of my son is all too familiar to many people of color in this country where black and white cultures are perceived as monolithic, thus stifling any acknowledgment of the multitude of diversity that exists within either group, as well as in America as a whole.
I would encourage you to watch the video below which is both provocative and informative. Hopefully, it will provide greater insight into ‘colorism’ and the concomitant expression of racism in America.
- American Ethnicity Tags (journeytomalem.wordpress.com)
- Race in America (wisdomandfairness.wordpress.com)
- Raising biracial kids in 2013: The challenges and the opportunities for the African-American community (thegrio.com)
- Half-and-Half: It’s the Obama age, but my biracial child still makes some people uncomfortable. Babble.com. | Babble (babble.com)