The Color of Colorblind: Exploring Mixed Race Identity

The Color of Colorblind: Exploring Mixed Race Identity

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Lindsay C. Harris

The Color of Colorblind: Addressing the History of Racial Classification and Mixed Racial Identity in the U.S.

Like 60 million other Americans, I cast my ballot to reelect our first black president last month. I endorsed a man whose accomplishments are certainly emblematic of progress in the fight for civil rights in this country, but who’s multiracial heritage, identity, and “degree of blackness” under constant scrutiny represents a long and complicated history of racial classification in the United States.

I understand why it may be easy for some to call this the age of colorblindness; why it may seem like “colorblind” is what we should aspire to; and why some might even think we have finally reached this elusive goal as we wave around our newest trophy—the Obamas on Capitol Hill. However, before we pat ourselves on the back and walk away thinking job well done, it’s important to examine a few realities that make our society certainly not post-race—because we could be on the verge of setting ourselves  backward under the guise of progress if we don’t.

Like Obama, I am born of a black father and a white mother. Like many children of mixed parentage, I had my share of struggles to find myself and my community. Moreover, like any adolescent I stru­ggled to feel comfortable with myself and with my body. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend some great schools and to have mentors who have helped me find my voice, critically and artistically. I identify as black and of mixed race—I am of African American, Norwegian and Native American heritage. I acknowledge that calling myself mixed race is a distinct privilege afforded to my generation, and moreover a privilege afford to me because of the way that I look (lighter skinned) and the environment in which I live (New York City). It is with this criticality that I approach not only my own identity, but my artistic body of work surrounding mixed race and complicating identity…

…I believe that identity is two-fold—how we view ourselves and how others view us. And these views are informed by the racialized and sexualized violence of our past. To talk about contemporary identity also involves talking about the history of race in this country. There is a reason that Obama identifies as black not biracial, much of it has to do with society seeing him as first and foremost a black man. How can we understand and move this country toward real progress if we ignore race, and how as mixed race individuals can we deconstruct categories all together, rather than just create new ones?

Read the entire article here.

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