Are mixed race people black??

(235 Posts)
franch Wed 19-Jan-05 14:29:20

Great article in Feb Good Housekeeping celebrating 20 "black and Asian" women who are "changing the face of Britain". However, included in the list are at least 2 mixed-race women: Kelly Holmes and Zadie Smith. I'm not arguing with these women's achievements, but surely it would've been simple enough to call it a list of "black, Asian and mixed-race" women??? Would these 2 have been included in a list of white women, as they are both 50% white?

As the white mother of a mixed-race woman (albeit only 1 year old!), it makes me feel irrelevant. And I also feel DD is missing out on having inspirational role-models identified for her.

Help me write a letter to GH about this. What points should I cover? Also, for reference, here is the rest of the list - I may have missed some others who are also mixed race:

Meera Syal
Baroness Valerie Amos
Kelly Holmes
Parween Warsi
Baroness Patricia Scotland
Gurinder Chadha
Yasin Alibhai-Brown
Doreen Lawrence
Zeinab Badawi
Shami Chakrabarti
Vanessa Mae
Trisha Goddard
Pinky Lilani
Denise Lewis
Serena Rees
Tessa Sanderson
Reeta Chakrabarti
Zaiba Malik
Zadie Smith
Baroness Flather

Ones to watch:
Parminder Nagra
Jamelia
Ruzwana Bashir
Mishal Husain
Nina Wadia

sallystrawberry Wed 19-Jan-05 21:36:06

Ive had this conversation with my sil she has mixed race girls and they all consider themselves black because thats what they have chosen to do.
I explain to my children that they are half black and half white so are therfore mixed race, although most people would automatically refer to them as black but its completely up to them what they feel happy with in the future.

I agree with pedilia

"Isn't the important issue to raise mixed race children with a balanced view of both their 'races' and let them decide for themselves."

Gwenick my bil is from SA and is often telling me tales about the "Capetown Coloureds".
Its up to the individual and also depends on what part of the world you live in but I feel happier to refer to my children as mixed race and correct anyone who refers to them as otherwise.
But each to their own.

crouchingtigeress Wed 19-Jan-05 22:43:17

You know what, I wish the article just referred to "Black women's achievements", as I feel both mixed-race women AND Asian women come under this 'category'.

My identity is Black and my ethnic origin is Caribbean - Irish, I feel the two are very different things (the former being subjective and the latter, objective).

I really don't want to offend any mums, but I think there seems to be some fear of the term Black, as if your children claiming this identity ignores your existence, I don't think this should be the case.

Black is not about skin colour, having two black parents or ignoring our white ancenstry it is simply a cultural term, which means a whole lot more than the miscellaneous term 'mixed race'.

That's just my opinion

franch Wed 19-Jan-05 22:54:58

I'm interested to hear that, CT - especially what you say about 'black' being a cultural term. So does 'black' just mean anyone who's not white, to you? (I wonder how many Asians would agree?) I guess because DH is black (not a term I'm afraid of at all, btw) and I am white, I would, I'm afraid, feel excluded by the description of DD as 'black' - ie the same race as her father but a different race from mine. She would be black if DH had married another black person, and she would be white if I had married someone white - but she is, IMO, neither. Neither DH nor I know what it is like to be mixed race, and never will - to conflate DD's identity with DH's, therefore, oversimplifies things and denies her distinct experience. I am proud of my black DH and proud of my mixed DD - and I hope that she will be proud of both sides of her heritage.

ScummyMummy Wed 19-Jan-05 23:01:56

I agree with pedilia too. And I think you're absolutely right about mixed race identity, franch. Racial identity and ethnicity seem to me to be very personal and complex and by no means simply about how you look. And definitions are ultimately down to individuals.

However, racism is very frequently about how you look, IMO- being visibly "not white" is (often) to face discrimination in many areas of life. That's why I think that asking about whether a mixed race woman would be included on a white women's list is missing the point, tbh. It is highly unlikely that someone would deliberately draw up a list of high-achieving white women in the first place. Rather, and sadly, it is likely that a list of high achieving women would still be massively dominated by white women, because white people do not face the same barriers in society as others.

franch Wed 19-Jan-05 23:05:24

Agreed, SM

ScummyMummy Wed 19-Jan-05 23:06:25

Great post, crouchingtigress.

crouchingtigeress Wed 19-Jan-05 23:16:30

Franch
Yes I do think Black can be used by anyone who is non- white. Asian people may not agree, but this is just my opinion.

I think you've misunderstood me. I don't see Black as a racial term, therefore your daughter wouldn't be associating herself with your husband, and ignoring yours. If your husband, was African-Carribean, and she only called herself that, then she would be.
Franch
I don't think Black, "oversimplifies things and denies her distinct experience", on the contrary I think it would enrich her 'distinct experience'.

What do you think about Black History month? Does it offend you? Would you like to see Bob Marley, Booker T washington, WEB Du Bois, Malcom X and Mary Secole's achievenments celebrated in a separate month?

ScummyMummy Wed 19-Jan-05 23:28:12

and another great post, ct...

<<hero-worship>>

crouchingtigeress Wed 19-Jan-05 23:34:57

Thanks Scrummy

franch Wed 19-Jan-05 23:40:22

I do find your point of view very interesting CT - I know I have to be prepared for DD to choose an identity that differs from the one I have chosen for her, and your perspective on 'blackness' as a cultural rather than racial term is very useful to me in that regard.

No, I don't find Black History Month offensive! Having said that, yes I think I would also like to see some explicit celebration of mixed-race achievement. I would find that useful for inspiring DD. The history of mixed-race people in this country is a very complex one, and worthy of attention. Have you read Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's book , btw? It's a real eye-opener.

crouchingtigeress Wed 19-Jan-05 23:54:04

No I haven't read it yet, but I am big fan of Yasmin, so I am sure I will find it very interesting. Thanks for the link .

Poshpaws Thu 20-Jan-05 11:35:58

I know we were not going to go down the PC/non-PC route, but EEKK - coloured!!!! Sure most of Black Britain and certainly Black America would have an issue with this term.

Good luck, franch.

Poshpaws, a Black-British mother, who understands that her DS can chose who he wants to be (but would be secretly upset if he chose Black or White as his identity, after all the hard work she is putting in to avoid that )

Blu Thu 20-Jan-05 12:07:20

I think it is great for mixed race women to be included in the ist - racists rarely 'grade' their degree of discrimination to the individual make-up of an individual, and all htose women will have experienced either instituional or overt racism - or been streotyped in some way as they made their way towards their achievements.

I am white, with a mixed-race son, but I agree with CouchingTigresses points. Black/mixed race is a 'minority' position in this country, and for me to start further categorising and carving up people who are, really, only categorised together because of teh minority/discrimination factor is potentially divisive, diversionary and weakening of solidarity.

But of course each person's sense of identity and individuls cultural influence is far more complex, and can only be self-defined.

Gwenick Thu 20-Jan-05 19:21:33

sally - when did your DH live in SA - I think during apartheid then 'coloured' WAS seen as offensive, but since then people now feel it's something to be proud of and describe themselves as that.

Asked my DH outright today how he could describe our kids and he replied "coloured" - oh well each to their own. And as for PC - I don't even want to go down that route - 99% of it just annoys me and DH.

franch Thu 20-Jan-05 19:28:38

Gwenick maybe SA is ahead of us with mixed-race people reappopriating the term 'coloured' the way gay people reappropriated 'queer', etc.??? It probably depends on context too - I wouldn't correct a gay friend if they used the word 'queer' but would if my Dad did!

franch Thu 20-Jan-05 19:30:47

(Of course, the same thing has happened with the N- word, particularly by rappers etc. - another one to be handled with care.)

Gwenick Thu 20-Jan-05 19:40:04

That's very true franch re the N- word - you'll note that when I listed the offensive terms I couldn't even bring myself to spell it out like the others as I find it so distasteful (and DH definitely would NOT like to be referred to as any of the ones I listed).

I think perhaps they are 'ahead' of us (and Zimbabwe too) we never were the quickest nation at picking up on how others would liked to be referred to by us LOL

zebra Thu 20-Jan-05 20:04:11

Doesn't Whoopi Goldberg dislike being called "African American" because she considers herself more Jewish than "African"? But she was happy to call herself 'black' before that. Because she 'looks' African, and that's how the term is defined in the USA...

Actually, most "African Americans" are at least 25% native American, so they're mixed race, too... the idea that this thread started with that only a "pure" blood person should be called "black" seems odd to me, because, at least in the US, few people who would embrace a "black"/chinese/Mexican/etc. identity are "pure"-blooded.

I hate the way Brits use the word "black" to mean any "person of colour", though. Not because it's imprecise, but because it's lumping all "people of colour" together.

franch Thu 20-Jan-05 20:10:37

zebra, please don't accuse me of introducing the idea of racial purity! The people I was defining as mixed race are 50% white (give or take a few percent here or there) - but of course we are pretty much all 'mixed' in some way. You and I object to the same thing: all non-white people being described the same way.

Chandra Thu 20-Jan-05 20:13:34

After 400 yrs of dealing with labels which specified how much blood of any race you had (and there were hundreds of diferent labels). The government was taken by revolutionaries who decided that we were not half this, 10% that, etc. We only accepted we have been mixed so well that we are now a new race: Mexicans.

Almost 100 yrs from that we can see that removing such labels (though still trying) has definitively helped us to be less racist. We are what we are and the racial background is irrelevant. If somebody asks about my racial background I just say we have lost track of that, and when I can opt out to questionaires, I do.

In terms of the colour of the skin, I define myself as cafe latte. I'm white in Mexico, I'm dark in UK, and I'm average in Spain, so... this is very relative...

Blu Fri 21-Jan-05 09:57:07

Gwenick - I think 'fair enough' when people are comfortable within their own environment - but honestly, if you used 'coloured' where I live, it wouldn't be a matter of 'PC' it would be an outrage. The entire black workforce walked out as one from a coucil meeting because the new Chief Exec called them 'coloured' and there was an ensuing public inquiry. If you used that term to someone in the local market, you'd have to run for it, fast. It really is seen and felt as offensive - maybe as a leftover from apartheid, or as old fashioned from the 'no coloured, no Irish' notices from the 1950s, or because it was taken over by the emerging consciousness of the Black Pride movement, I don't know.

Zebra - I think that 'black' is only an inclusive term when used politically - i.e when in the context of a dynamic with racism. As such, it isn't intended as a description of actual colour, ethnicity, race or culture.

Gwenick Fri 21-Jan-05 16:26:22

I think you may be misunderstanding me on the use of 'coloured' - blacks don't refer to themselves as that, they call themselves Black - but mixed race do.

If you referred to the blacks in SA as coloured you'd probably have a riot on your hands too LOL

lockets Fri 21-Jan-05 16:30:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Blu Fri 21-Jan-05 16:30:13

Gwenick, (hi!) I may well be totally confused, but IME, mixed-race folk here (Brixton) would also go sky high at 'coloured' and were certainly amongst those that walked from the council meeting. 'Coloured' isn't acceptable to anyone, afaik, in London...sorry if I'm still arguing something that's not to the point

Gwenick Fri 21-Jan-05 16:40:21

Oh well - maybe they would - I gues you know best, living there. I still think that most of the reactions to these things are caused by people of DIFFERENT ethnic backgrounds, deciding for the other ethnic backgrounds what is 'acceptable' and what's not.

I'll just have to hope that DS's don't decide to follow in Zimbabwean tradition and refer to themselves as coloured!!!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now