More Than “Black-ish”: Examining Representations of Biracial People

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2014-11-09 19:12Z by Steven

More Than “Black-ish”: Examining Representations of Biracial People

For Harriet

Aphrodite Kocieda

Being biracial can be an uncomfortable subject to talk about, especially because it highlights a sensitive history of colorism, racism, and favoritism within the Black community. The unapologetic presence of biracial people in contemporary media culture is beginning to spark questions about what it means to be black, and if biracial people “count” as black. We often speak about biracial people through a black apocalyptic narrative; meaning that the increase of biracial individuals represented in the media seemingly comes at a cost of erasing darker-skinned black people from the screen. This narrative is unproductive and anti-intersectional.

Salon writer Morgan Jerkins recently wrote a critique of the film “Dear White People” demonstrating how it was problematic that their most complex character was Sam, a biracial woman. Yes, folks, we live in a white supremacy; however, I am suspicious of people who want to end colorism with surface-level critiques. They call every representation of a light-skinned person a giant step backwards and offer no solutions for moving forward that honors the complexity and diversity of blackness. Jerkins’ sentiments were as trite and obvious as natural hair nazis who think every black woman with straight hair is a dupe. It’s much more complex than that. Sam’s authenticity as a black woman was questioned and it was assumed that the film may have been more dynamic if a darker-skinned (i.e. “fully” black) woman was cast instead. As a biracial woman myself, I thought the critique was quite dull and lacked any real depth…

..The show “Black-ish” picks up on this uneasiness surrounding biracial identity and ideas of blackness. The lead black character Dre (played by Anthony Anderson) struggles with his own blackness because he is wealthy, however he seems comfortable insisting that his mixed-race wife Rainbow (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) isn’t black. In the pilot episode, she tries to comfort him after a bad day at work and he teases her by stating that since she’s biracial—thus, she’s not really black.

In response, she states, “Okay, well, if I’m not really black, then could somebody please tell my hair and my ass?”

I celebrated this moment. She wasn’t asking for permission to be black. She claimed it, which is powerful when people interrogate our (meaning, biracial women) need to take up space in black narratives…

Read the entire article here.

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