The Mixed-Race Experience in America

Alara Walcott, Staff Writer

The very genotype representing America is changing by the day, yet we disgrace and distrust the people our country will soon come to represent. Biracial, multicultural, wasian, and lightskin–we have come up with so many names, but it still remains a challenge for these people to identify with the names they have been given. For the simplicity of this article, people of more than one culture or ethnicity will be referred to as mixed race. There is a long and racist history behind categorizing people of mixed race. Through my research, I found a quote by author Theresa Williams-León: “To many, “mixed” invited associations like “mixed up” and “mixed signals,” all of which reinforced existing stereotypes of “mixed” people as confused, untrustworthy or defective. It also had ties to animal breeding, “mixed” dogs and horses were the foil to pure-breeds and thoroughbreds.” In all, this referenced the idea that referring to mixed race people as two parts to a whole, makes these people feel as if they are not pure, or diluted in their race somehow. 

Most often we see mixed-race people with some background in European culture, and oftentimes the other part of their background is of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent. Within these common groupings, we see huge variations in appearance and childhood experiences. Some mixed-race people of African and American descent may lean towards lighter skin, therefore interpretable as white. Other people of African and American descent may lean towards darker skin, therefore interpretable as African. The same variations occur among Asian Americans, but studies generally speak to the fact that Asian Americans most often identify with their American background strongly. African Americans, on the other hand, lean into their African ancestry. 

I am briefly reminded of a conversation I recently had with a fellow mixed-race individual. He had said that neither of his parents could ever truly relate to being of mixed race, as they are both fully immersed in their own cultures. As for himself, he stated that he had never faced explicit racism, on account of nobody being able to identify him. I can humorously agree with this sentiment, being mixed race myself. This is the idea behind the common argument that being mixed race pushes you into a gray area, where racism is not nearly as implied. It is this gray area that causes some mixed-race individuals to speak out against ambiguity, and others to choose whichever side they best identify with, arguably the less controversial side. 

The opposing argument is presented as such: being mixed race provides ambiguity, or a nicer way of saying that being mixed race is easier and less confining than being a pure minority living in America. While there is simply no point in discrediting the experience of others, and we have exponential progress to make for all races, I can argue that being mixed race can and will present its own set of challenges. For myself and many others, being mixed race presents more questions about ethnicity and a sense of belonging. As quoted above, it is reasonable to imagine that mixed-race people do not find solace in the experience of their parents. This is the argument I care to make a point of, it is nearly impossible to find sympathy when your experience is a blend of cultures, religions, and traditions. Some may adopt the traditions of one parent, and not the other, leaving them with only one part of their identity. Some will do this to set themself up for success, leaving them to undermine the other part of their identity. Simply put, I often see mixed-race people “picking a side” in America. 

Being mixed race is not a gray area or symbolic of being impure, but rather, the future of our coming generations. While it can be argued that mixed-race individuals have it easy, I say that being in your own category presents an equal and challenging set of constraints. We are quick to ignore our mixed-race population, possibly because we have so much racial progress to make in the first place. But I ask, once the dust is settled, that we take into consideration how exponentially this sector of our population is growing. I ask that we take into consideration the experiences of our mixed-race friends, colleagues, and family members. I ask that one day we allow each other to fit into more than one category. I ask that we no longer push each other into boxes that we deem appropriate for society. I ask to be accepted and understood.