With Determining And Accepting Racial Identity, Do Biracial Men Have It “Easier” Than Biracial Women? » VSB

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With Determining And Accepting Racial Identity, Do Biracial Men Have It “Easier” Than Biracial Women?

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Full disclosure: I love Sage Steele. 

If you don’t know anything about sportsball, Ms. Steele is veteran journalist who came up in Indianapolis news scene and made her way all the way to the hallowed halls of Bristol, CT and ESPN.

Even though I have long since stopped watching ESPN, partly because of there are a plethora of other options on the internet and partly because seeing Stephen A. Smith’s atrocious choppa suits are like a handful of salt in the eyes, Sage was and is always a welcome sight during NBA broadcasts.

Last week, I happened to come across an article on the Huffington Post detailing her career and the racism and sexism she’s faced. In the article, she offered something that piqued my interest:

“I will say this though, and I’m pretty specific about it, My mom is white, half-Irish and half-Italian, and my dad is black-so I identify exactly 50 percent with each. Even though, if someone were to see me on TV, they wouldn’t go like, ‘Oh yea, you know that white girl with curly hair that does the NBA?’ No, they’re going to say the Black girl, but it’s really important to me to identify with my mom’s side as well.”

Now, if you weren’t aware before, you now know, Sage is biracial.

It’s 2016, and there’s nothing odd about that. She’s a person. She loves her mom. The sky is blue, trees are green, and the earth is flat.

Then, as I recollected seeing a giant billboard of Sage for Mixed Chicks hair products my peace was mildly shaken. My brow furrowed, because I found myself contemplating a question that I hoped proved to be false:

Does Sage Steele feel pressure to let people know she’s white because she’s not ambiguous looking?

Does she feel like she’s not reaping the benefits of her Whiteness because she didn’t end up a shade of indeterminate beige?

Elsewhere, SNL alumnae, and verified indeterminate beige person, Maya Rudolph was coming to terms with her blackness. Her episode of Finding Your Roots also aired last week, and Rudolph, whose mother (soul legend Minnie Ripperton) passed in 1979, openly admitted to “feeling orphaned by her heritage.”

These two examples touch into the gamut of issues that biracial people (particularly from Black/White pairings) face when forming their identities.

1. People (both White and Black) often say horrible, uncalled for things to biracial people chiefly out of insecurity and bitterness.

2. Having an absent parent can skew a biracial person’s formation of self-identity.

3. Cultivating exoticism is a large part of racial politics.

With all of these neuroses and social pressure on biracial people, I find myself asking, “How did Drake do it?”

As an observer, I’ve come to recognize that Aubrey “Drake” Graham has apparently solved this puzzle, and become a person who appears, at least on the public stage, to love the totality of his racial self without reservation.

This man has the gall to consistently reference both of his parents in his music and humanize them in an earnest, non-judgmental way. He regularly discusses his Jewish mother, Sandi Graham’s worrisome nature. She judges all of the various strippers and “good girls” he brings home, and doesn’t want to end up “70 and alone.” Also, he speaks of his soul drummer father, Dennis Graham, who left his mother and son in Canada, and served a couple of jail stints in a positive light. He loves his country black cousins in Memphis and his Jewish uncle who let him borrow his car in “Look What You’ve Done.” He even dedicated a music video to each of his parents. Dennis Graham got to flex with some of his dice buddies in “Worst Behaviour” and Sandi Graham posted up in front of the stoop “Started From The Bottom” Video.

And of course we can’t forget Drake inviting Lil Wayne to his grown man bar mitzvah.

On top of this well executed parental reverence, Drake has weathered a biblical storm of light skinned jokes over the years, culminating in the personalized #drakethetype hashtag. Through all of this he never made a peep about Black people being mean spirited, or bitter or jealous, he just kept making great music and basically won over the entire world by being himself. Coincidentally, the hit single from his mixtape/album “If You’re reading This It’s Too Late” was titled “Know Yourself.” Maybe Drake is really that self-aware or maybe he’s the just the result of a magnificent case of co-parenting that needs to be studied for future generations.

The first two characteristics of the Drake model that initially made question Drake’s biracial brilliance are Canada and age. I wondered if growing up in Canada would shape his perception of race in a different light. Then again, Drake is half Canadian-half Memphian. And being half from Memphis is a worth two lifetimes of racial baggage. My second thought was that being a millennial, like I am, Drake had the benefit of the internet to shape his identity. Unlike, the 40 plus year-old women, who may have had the scope of their images limited as children, a teen in the aughts could find positive role models who looked like him with a little less effort.  However, having access to all of the knowledge mankind has accrued over the eons, hasn’t imparted a nuanced understanding of race onto most millenials. So the Drake model stood until I considered a third characteristic.

Gender. Drake is a man. A man who is not beholden to the same beauty standards that drive colorism. This realization sent me down the rabbit hole where race plummets into cornucopia of sexism. A study of college-aged women in the American Sociological Review, which I read via Code Switch, co-signs this. It reveals that 76 percent of black-white biracial women identify as multiracial, which is the highest among any racial pairing and 12 percent higher than Black-White biracial men.

Perhaps, because biracial men don’t feel these same pressures, the journey of racial self-acceptance is an easier one for them. With less obstacles in the way, and less pressure to identify as one or the other. (Or identify as anything other than a “man.”)

Brandon Harrison

Brandon lives in LA and has Hollywood stories that rival those of Rick James. He prides himself on staying righteous and knowing more about basketball than you.

  • L8Comer

    “It reveals that 76 percent of black-white biracial women identify as multiracial, which is … 12 percent higher than Black-White biracial men.”

    This is interesting. I wonder if there’s a breakdown of which parent, mom or dad, in interracial couples tends to be black and which one tends to white? Maybe it’s equal? I kinda doubt it b/c I have seen stats that say BM are more likely to marry outside of their race than BW. So if interracial couples tend to be more BM w/ WW (Idk that they do) then maybe the son is more likely to identify with his Dad, and the daughter is more likely to identify with or be more inclusive of Mom’s heritage since for most mixed women they can’t fully identify as white, mixed is the closest to it.

    • menajeanmaehightower

      This. Anytime I see someone claiming their white side to the highest heavens, i automatically assume that their mom is white.

      • DebKII

        My mom sees a lot of couples as an obgyn and notices patterns. This isnt statistical of course but a lot of the times the couples with a black mom, white dad come from a different economic background than the other way around. With education levels way up, the child tends to learn more about each side. Learn from their black mother the pride and history of their black ancestry.

        I think women that claim their white side to the highest heavens have seen their black dad do this, so its just inherited.

        • menajeanmaehightower

          Black women being more educated than their white husbands?

          I agree with your last sentence. White moms seem to downplay the blackness of their child and so the child grows up with the colorblind mentality.

          • DebKII

            No the couples in general. The education level of the entire couple as a whole.

          • Amazonian Midget

            I worry about my cousin’s daughters. The eldest “looks” more Black than bi-racial, whereas the youngest (although she’s my spitting image) looks more racially ambiguous. They have a White mother and I cringed at one of her IG posts where she praised the younger one for finally having her hair straightened. They are raised around nothing but White people, and other than their Jamaican grandmother, don’t really interact with Black people regularly. I might be overthinking it, but I am concerned about their confidence levels, how/what they think about our people and what will happen when they are finally opened to the real world.

            • menajeanmaehightower

              It will be a slap in their faces and their mother will downplay it.

          • Jacqueline

            True. When James Blake was racially profiled this past year, his mother ( a British women in her 70’s) had the nerve to say she did not think of her son as black.

            How crazy is that?

            • fxd8424

              Them come to Jesus moments are a b*tch.

            • DebKII

              That’s insane. But believable smh

  • Qris_10

    I would say that it is easier for biracial women simply because……they’re women. Not only do they have to deal with the societal pressures of being a woman (appearance, position in the workplace, what role to play at home, etc. and d a m n etc….) but also racial identity issues and maybe feeling torn between 2 races. I am black, but I knew many girls and boys growing up who were biracial (black and ____) and the girls definitely had it harder. Teased more, scrutinized more. The boys were just one of the boys in their circles, and the black girls fawned over them. Biracial women in the media have even spoken about having these really big identity crises and I think it stems from the attention that they got when they were young (neg. and pos.) by nature of them just being girls (hair issues, beauty issues in particular). My observation has been that biracial boys/men seem to get more positive attention than the girls/women do.

    • L8Comer

      so much of these types of debates really go back to playground. I guess people still bear the scars. As an adult, the light skinned / dark skinned and black / mixed thing has NO where near the prominence in conversation that it did when I was a kid. So… yes, maybe the analysis needs to go back to what the struggles where like in childhood.. which is funny b/c kids are dumb and rigid.

      When I was kid, my school was pretty diverse and racial groups intermingled, but they were still mostly segregated. Mixed kids kicked it with the black kids and I never heard of anyone identifying as anything other than black. But it seemed there were more benefits to being a mixed girl than a mixed boy. A mixed girl could be exotic, unique, different, more an object of desire for some boys…etc. For a mixed boy I don’t think their “mixed looks” were as eroticized as much especially since light skinned was on the way out… and it’s terrible but there’s a lot of negative assumptions that come with a boy who has mixed features e.g. he’s soft, bad at sports, a punk.. that kind of thing. Then again I guess some girls go crazy for light eyes and curly hair. Idk what to do with this either I guess.

      • tiggatae

        Being “eroticized” on the playground does not make a young girl’s experience easier or better. In fact, it complicates life and endangers her.

        • L8Comer

          I didn’t say it did.

      • Qris_10

        My experience was exactly the opposite growing up (small suburb outside of DC, DMV if you will). It seemed as if the biracial boys were more accepted in their circles – among other boys – and the biracial/light girls were often either fawned over, or the opposite: beaten up and ridiculed because “she thought she was all that”. Girls were often very wishy-washy in their relationships with light/biracial girls. Friends one minute and crucified the next. For the boys, it was all about that light skin/light eyes thing. The had the attention of girls, the admiration of boys. The biracial boys had it made. And growing up with these stark differences in treatment may lend itself to adult insecurities. But these were just my observations in my neck of the woods.

        • L8Comer

          I also grew up in a small suburb outside of DC – Silver Spring. :) Hey neighbor!

          I would say light boys def got play, but they were on their way out in my memory (maybe especially for my tastes; I never got the fascination with Shemar Moore) and I don’t remember dark boys being denied attention b/c they were dark.

          It’s interesting how experiences differ even in a similar area… could be a different generation, different racial make up at our schools, or it could be we paid attention to certain things more than others. I’m light brown but get real medium/dark in the summer, but people usually put me in the light skinned category and assume I’m mixed, but I’m not. Luckily I never had any problems with girls in that regard..maybe cuz I’m in the middle? I wasn’t teased or bullied for my super long hair. I was told at certain times I didn’t know what it was like to “really be black” by my friends. I didn’t like that, but I understood it and knew in a way they were right. They were touching on light skinned privilege and just didn’t have the vocab to put it in more nuanced terms.

          • Qris_10

            Hey there! I grew up in Adelphi/Hyattsville area. So not that far. But during the 80s and early to mid 90s. All the “crush boys” in my schools (elementary and middle) were light. No one liked the dark boys unless they had “good hair”. There was one boy that fit that description; girls fought like junkyard dogs over him…..I guess I grew up with a lot of color-struck peers….

            I think it probably is just a different group of kids. Says something about the variation of ideals and attitudes even within the same area. I am medium brown but get dark in the summer and I was a really quiet kid who watched other kids. I was (still am) really observant so I would see how the biracial/light dynamic played out among my peers and thought it was weird. But, I guess my original thought was that girls/women often have a tougher time anyway with identity formation and the interference of body issues and insecurities with appearance. Throw in racial identity stuff and how being biracial makes you look “exotic” and whatnot….It can bring up some turmoil that may not be there for boys.

            • L8Comer

              “Throw in racial identity stuff and how being biracial makes you look “exotic” and whatnot….It can bring up some turmoil that may not be there for boys.”

              All very true. Playground days for me were mid to late 90’s. Being dubbed exotic in comparison to your friends, peers, and sometimes other family members definitely brings up some turmoil.

  • Hugh Akston

    this is going to be fun reading the comments here

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSb7mlz7Hag

    • Val

      Aww, man, the gif is much better.

  • Glo

    I think it has to do with society’s perceptions of mixed women and beauty. If a woman is claiming to embrace all sides of her heritage, she needs to be light skinned with loosely curled hair for people to believe her. A medium to dark skinned woman with kinky hair, tho? People will think that she’s trying to pretend to be less black than she is in order to make herself seem more attractive by society’s standards (which often does happen, to be fair. How many of us know that black woman with black parents, black grandparents, and black great grandparents that claims she’s mixed because she’s “1/8 creole, 1/4 Cherokee” and whatever else she want to throw into the mix?).

    While both biracial men and women tend to be seen as attractive, I don’t think biracial men don’t have as much of an advantage over black men as biracial women do over black women when it comes to societal perceptions of beauty. Biracial men are free to claim as much or as little of their non-black identity as they want because it won’t really have much of an impact on how they are perceived.

    • fxd8424

      ” A medium to dark skinned woman with kinky hair, tho?”
      Brings back a memory of a woman I used to see on the train lamenting the fact that people don’t see her Latino side. We weren’t even talking about race and just out of the blue she says this. Now mind you, this woman was Lupita black. Hair nappy as sheep’s wool. There was absolutely nothing about her that even hinted at Latino. I guess she thought it important that she not be looked upon as “just black.”

      • Me

        I’m not Latina, but I live in a Latina/o neighborhood. Coming from this side, where everyone assumes I’m Latina because of where I live even though I may not look black American, but I DEFINITELY look no kinds of Latina (as per media depicitions of the one or two types of Latina — J.Lo and Eva Longoria/Sofia Vergara — that ever existed), I can see why or how it could be disconcerting to have your skin color automatically overshadow everything else about you. Not saying that being “just black”/black American is bad, but reducing someone to “just anything” when there are more sides to them is insulting to everything else that makes them whole. To me, I see it no differently than when folks assume black = male or woman = white. There are intersectionalities within blackness too, and that matters to every black person that isn’t American.

        • fxd8424

          She just struck me as odd, because I just complimented her on the coat she was wearing. She leads in with it’s not what’s on the outside. WTF?? It was just a compliment. Then she finishes with the not being seen as Latino. As a stranger, at 7:30 in the A.M., I didn’t really care how she identifies. *Sigh*

          • Me

            I get it. You can always tell the ones who bring up their “other” traits as a way to pardon themselves for being black as if it’s the curse of all times. I almost dated a Dominican guy with that same hang up, and had a Puerto Rican friend in college who would quickly correct people who thought she was black, but of course that didn’t stop her from have an OOW child and dropping out of school now did it?

            • fxd8424

              Exactly! Like I should have known she was Latina. I never said anything about her ethnicity. I just complimented her coat. SMH.

      • Brandon Allen

        Thats a whole another issue of representation. Because being black ain’t never stopped Celia Cruz or 97% or major league baseball from being latino. You can still speak Spanish, have Virgin Mary’s all in your house, and beat your kids with chancletas.

        • GRACIAS!!! I am a latina and I SELF IDENTIFY as black…. I couldn’t deny it if I tried!

      • SweetSass

        HER CULTURE is Latin. The food, the dances, religion, the language spoken at home. That is what she is talking about. Bruuuuuhhhh…. Not everything about about what you think it is about.

        • fxd8424

          I get that her culture may be Latin. I was just describing the visual. All I said (down thread somewhere) is that I complimented this woman on her coat and this was part of her response. She lead in with “It’s not what’s on the outside” and finished with the comment about being Latino. I had no way of knowing, nor did I care, what her culture may or may not be. I just happened to like the coat she was wearing, told her so, and thought it odd that she responded as she did.

        • Latin isn’t a culture

    • menajeanmaehightower

      “I don’t think biracial men don’t have as much of an advantage over black
      men as biracial women do over black women when it comes to societal
      perceptions of beauty.”

      There you have it.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      “Biracial men are free to claim as much or as little of their non-black
      identity as they want because it won’t really have much of an impact on
      how they are perceived.”

      Unless they have features that clearly let folks know that someone in the family is Black; then it becomes a matter of do Whites hold that against them.

    • Akhibrass

      “Biracial men are free to claim as much or as little of their non-black identity as they want because it won’t really have much of an impact on how they are perceived.”

      Are you speaking from the perspective of a biracial man? Because I don’t think many biracial men would agree with you.

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    Drake gets to embrace both sides of his family tree because Canada has much less hegemony over whiteness and blackness as compared to the rigid one drop rule. Not to say that there isn’t racism in Canada, Trudeau notwithstanding. Jamaicans on their side are the worst students, but some of the best on this side. Somebody always has to be on the bottom of the society, I guess.

    Anyway

    “100%” black people be the first to remind mixed folks that others just see them as former slaves. We just had that post last week about “clearly” black women claiming to be one of the chosen. The rage and resentment….can’t even call it.

    Rank and file Black folks rarely see the black skin as identity, or gathering under the umbrella of racism hurts them.

    My Caribbean massive sees this. So does my African fam. But they also add to the discord as well.

    We’d be better off embracing our full heritage, even if it’s painful or unsavory. Ask anybody from New Orleans what their family reunions look like, and what the vibe is.

    • minxbrie

      ” Canada has much less hegemony over whiteness and blackness as compared to the rigid one drop rule. Not to say that there isn’t racism in Canada, Trudeau notwithstanding. Jamaicans on their side are the worst students, but some of the best on this side. Somebody always has to be on the bottom of the society, I guess.”

      …bruh, WHAT?

      Nope. I don’t think the word you’re looking for is “hegemony” but Whiteness and Blackness still operate very rigidly within Canada, it’s just quieter and if I could ask anything of AA’s, please stop doing this thing where you assume Canada’s history of anti-black racism “isn’t as bad” because you’re unfamiliar with it.

      • Agreed. Since I have a friend of Canadian acquaintance who is the mom of half-Black kids, I’ve learned a bit about Canada’s racial dynamics. It’s not as blatant as the US, but it’s out there. It’s more of the polite racism one typically sees in places like New England instead of being in your face. There’s a reason the Black Panthers had a chapter in Halifax.

  • Cleojonz

    I wonder if in Sage’s case it really isn’t as deep as we are all trying to analyze. She could really just be super close with her mom and feel like it’s a slap in the face to her for people to just assume she’s fully black. I’m no psychologist so I don’t really know.

    We kind of try to make sure it’s not an issue in my house. My kids refer to themselves as beige but whereas as my kids are pretty obviously biracial kids I don’t think anyone would necessarily think with black for my older daughter because she is so fair and has green eyes. I worry for her sometimes because she is sensitive and next year is middle school and middle school b*tches are mean. I hope she will not struggle with identity at all she has been taught she is both and I think she feels that now, but who knows. I can tell them how it feels for me to be black, but I really can’t tell them how it should feel for them to be both.

    *On another note we tried those mixed chicks products on my kids’ hair and their hair literally laughed at me and asked “Just what did you think that was going to accomplish?” I might as well had just been using water.

    • L8Comer

      Lolol! I never tried mix chicks products. I like Shea Moisture and Cantu stuff.

      “middle school b*tches are mean.” <– this is true. I could be wrong, but I imagine identifying as biracial doesn't get quite the same neck snap as it did when I was a kid. I really hope not anyway.

    • CozyVon

      It did NOT “literally” laugh at you, LOL! Just messin’ witcha…you know how I feel about the word “literally”…literally ;-)

      • Cleojonz

        I mean it. It LITERALLY laughed at us. It’s necessary for emphasis in this instance :)

        • CozyVon

          I can just see the hair looking you up & down all like, “Bish, please… what’chu finna do with THAT???” LMAO

    • fxd8424

      I worry for her too and don’t even know her. Sensitive, fair and light eyes? Sadly, she’s fair game for the middle school b*tches. Those girls are no joke.

    • menajeanmaehightower

      The mixed chicks product’s name really bothers me. Like i cringe.

      • Cleojonz

        Me too. They could have done better with that.

      • JennyJazzhands

        People ask me why I don’t use it and I’m like, “because I’m not mixed and my hair looks nothing like the women on the advertisements.”

  • BlueWave1

    Appearance is a greater burden on women than it is on men. Period. Any kind of political/social economy where appearance plays a significant role with be much more difficult for women to navigate. There are simply more avenues for biracial black to gain acceptance from the larger Black community than biracial women.

    • Akhibrass

      Really? I would think the opposite given how colorist the black community is. Wouldn’t a biracial woman have more social capital than a biracial man given how light skin is so valued in women?

  • ChiefbutnotA_Keef

    I don’t understand the whole identifying with both parents thing. So because I have one parent who is female, and another who is male, should I identify as both sexes? Am I rejecting the other if I only identify as one? That being said, I can understand identifying with a uniquely mixed identity or relating to one side over the other.

  • ChiefbutnotA_Keef

    Don’t believe in the drop rule. Although, everyone is definitely entitled to identify with whatever they feel they are, to me, you are whatever you look like. Just don’t act confused when what you feel isn’t what most people see

  • Ille Jay

    I can agree with the thought process…especially as it pertains to the growth of the individuals from their formative years. Young folks are more likely to have less of an idea of “who” they are in a variety of ways and this often lends itself to insecurity.

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