How far have we come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-17 19:25Z by Steven

How far have we come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)
Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia

Lin Taylor

What was once a shameful taboo with a deep, dark racist history is now the face of the modern world. But how far have we really come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Estelle Griepink is not a celebrity.

But more often than not, the 22-year-old will get stopped on the streets of Indonesia and Malaysia, with passers-by eager to take her photo.

“I lived in Indonesia for a couple of months and I was stopped by people who wanted to take photos of me – and with me – quite frequently,” she said. “It’s happened in Malaysia, where my family lives, too.”

Her appeal? The fact that she is half Malaysian and half Dutch.

“I know this happens to people who are white too – blonde hair, blue eyes – but I felt there was something kind of creepy doing it to me as they would go on about how amazing it was that I was half Asian, half white.

“At the end of the day my ethnicity is completely out of my control, so I hardly think it is something to be congratulated on or celebrated for… like you’re a collector’s item.”

But with their mysterious, racially ambiguous ‘look’ and exotic heritage, it’s not hard to see why mixed race people like Griepink are so in demand…

…Racial hierarchy, racism and the ‘one-drop rule’

Dr Julie Matthews, an educator and sociologist at the University of Adelaide, believed the sexualisation and preference for mixed race people is inherently racist.

“We’ve sexualised or pornographied mixed race. It’s a very narrow line between exoticisation and sexualisation, fetishisms – where you turn all non-white people into people who exist simply into your own pleasure.”

She said that a person who is half white is more “palatable” and acceptable in society – an idea, she believed, is steeped in racism and prevalent since colonisation.

“Colonialism has circulated the idea that white is best. White is at the top of a kind of hierarchy of humanity… If you believe there is a hierarchy of races, which is what racism is about, a little bit of white is more palatable,” said Dr Matthews, 58, who is half Japanese and half English.

“You can get rid of the fear, and horror and the anger of race by adding a bit of whiteness.”

A pertinent example of this was the treatment of half-Aboriginal children and the Stolen Generation. Between the late 1800s and the 1970s, the Australian government forcibly removed Aboriginal children with a white parent from their community, placing them in non-Indigenous foster homes or state-run institutions. It was hoped that mixed race children would ‘assimiliate’ into white Australian society and cut ties with their black ancestry.

Sociologist Professor Reginald Daniel from the University of California added that across all racial groups, blackness is the one identity that is the most complicated.

“When it comes to blackness, there is one frontier that is the most complicated,” he told SBS. “There is no ambiguity about who’s black no matter what you look like, no matter what your ancestry because of the ‘one drop rule’ way back to, at least informally, in slavery, and then formally in law.”

A term mainly used in the US, the one-drop rule is the idea that even ‘one drop’ of blackness in your ancestry precludes you from being truly white, and therefore ‘lower’ on the racial hierarchy (with whiteness being at the top of the scale).

“There was a time when [an interracial] couple would have been – in parts of the United States – lynched by the [Ku Klux] Klan. Those kinds of attitudes had very serious consequences in terms of physical harm. And that does still happen. There are numerous hate crimes directed at interracial couples and mixed race people. And that pattern has not gone. It’s a reflection of that deep long racist history,” said Professor Daniel, whose own multiracial identity includes African, European, Asian, Arab, and Native American origins.

As a result of such entrenched racism, Professor Daniel said identifying as a multiracial person was often “fraught with conflict”, especially if the individual had a black ancestor.

“There was not a lot of mixed race people in the past in terms of identity – even if they existed they didn’t embrace that identity. So it was an identity that was fraught with a lot of conflict, in a sense that, well, how do you form an identity that’s so totally different from everything and everyone around you?”

It’s a sentiment that Tony Ryder, 25, knows all too well.

With an Italian father and an Aboriginal mother, Ryder told SBS he grew up hiding his Noongar and Yamatji ancestry because of the racism he endured in his hometown of Perth.

“Everyone’s experience is different I suppose, but for me, you know, you get called b**ng, c**n, every name under the sun… Where I went to high school, being Aboriginal isn’t celebrated – you just get made fun of.”

But when Mr Ryder did start embracing his Aboriginal heritage, he said he struggled to find acceptance within the community because of his lighter skin.

“People need to start realising that Indigenous people don’t all look the same…We are a diverse people just like any other race. Years and years of genocide and forced assimilation does not mean that we are all going to be black-skinned and living in the desert.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Oceania on 2014-08-18 18:37Z by Steven

Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

University of Sydney
243 pages

Lyn Sue Dickens

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

This thesis examines the extent to which three contemporary Australian novels can be regarded as interventions in “the modern racial imaginary” (Mignolo 2011a, p. 277). In order to analyse the novels as interventions, this thesis looks in particular at depictions and conceptualisations of mixed race subjectivity and experience in the texts. The novels, The World Waiting to be Made by Simone Lazaroo (1994), Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro (2003) and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (2007) all explore mixed subjectivities and experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout this thesis I examine the complexity and disruptive potential of the concept of ‘mixed race’. I argue that through the depiction of people of mixed race and their traumatic experiences of racialisation, the novels critique, resist and disrupt concepts of race and colonial worldviews.

I further explore the ways in which the novels both promote and exemplify alternative ways of perceiving and interacting with other human beings that do not rely on racial categories or the humanitas/anthropos divide (Mignolo 2011b, p. 90). In order to do this I draw on Walter Mignolo’s concepts of border thinking/sensing and delinking, and Édouard Glissant’s work in The Poetics of Relation. I argue that critical examination of mixed race subjectivity and representation, in conjunction with transcultural concepts such as Relation and border thinking, provide a means of both challenging traditional concepts of race and essentialised cultures, and thinking beyond their boundaries. Furthermore, the novels themselves open up a transcultural space with transformative potential, which encourages the imagination of alternative, more equal worlds of Relation.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Ideas of racial categories that continue to fragment our ability to imagine humanity…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2013-04-09 04:38Z by Steven

Unfortunately, so long as ideas of racial categories continue to fragment our ability to imagine humanity, many minorities have few choices but to cash in on their ‘exotic’ appeal. For Eurasian women, this means accepting all the baggage of deviancy, prostitution and foreignness that is implicit in it. It also means a lifetime of answering the “what are you?” question and being told that they are not their parents’ children.

Lyn Dickens. “Being a Eurasian Australian,” Yemaya: Sydney University Law Society’s annual interdisciplinary Women’s journal, 2010 (2011): 34-36.

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Being a Eurasian Australian

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Women on 2013-03-17 00:46Z by Steven

Being a Eurasian Australian

Yemaya: Sydney University Law Society’s annual interdisciplinary Women’s journal
Yemaya 2010 (2011-04-17)
Theme: “Intersextions”
pages 34-36

Lyn Dickens

Lyn Dickens relates her experiences of being a young Eurasian woman in Australia

Being a Eurasian Australian is a strange thing. Don’t get me wrong, my mixed-race heritage has never been a source of inner-conflict, nor have I ever had an ‘identity crisis’ about having Anglo-Celtic and Peranakan parentage. Unfortunately, I can’t say that everyone else is always so comfortable with my ethnicity.

When I was fifteen, I was at my local shopping centre when a strange man loomed into my path and demanded, “What are you?” Stunned, I avoided his bemused gaze and kept walking. What did he mean? was my initial reaction. Then I thought, with slow-mounting anger, what kind of question is that? I was not a thing—a “what” could not encompass who I was. But even in my racially naïve teenage brain, I realised that his question was about my not-quite-white appearance. It was not the first time that I had been confronted by a stranger about my racial heritage. The question “Where are you from?” was a disturbingly common occurrence during my teenage years. Funnily enough, while my Asian friends were sometimes quizzed about their origins by acquaintances, they didn’t seem to attract strangers on the street the way my sister and I did.

Were we freaks? Back then, the thought occasionally crossed my mind. It wasn’t until I reached university and actually met a few other Eurasian women that I realised they had all had similar experiences, and that these experiences would keep coming. Even today, meeting someone new all but guarantees a discussion of my race and, inevitably, everyone sees something different. At a conference recently, a woman assumed I was Chinese and when I informed her of my heritage she responded in an offended tone, “but you don’t look Eurasian”. On another occasion I was at a dinner party and the majority of the guests assumed I was half white and half ‘something’. The exact type of ‘something’ which made up this half became a topic of conversation. Was I half-Japanese, half-Singaporean, half-Burmese?

Compared to many other young, Eurasian Australian women, my experiences could have been worse. My friend Serena—twenty-nine, fun, friendly and Eurasian—went to a trendy Sydney nightclub recently. While she was dancing with a group of friends, a Caucasian man grabbed her and bit her on the shoulder. Shocked, she could only stare in amazement when he said, “You wanted that, didn’t you? Girls like you always do.”

“Girls like what?” I exclaimed, slightly scandalised, when she told me. She gave me a wry smile and shrugged.

“Girls like us”, she replied. “Eurasians”…

Read the entire essay here.

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