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Monday, December 19, 2016

Blackish Episode "Bow-Racial"



This is Tracee Ellis-Ross from the very funny and socially conscious show, "Blackish" in case you didn't know. I love this show, hated the name but I got over it.  Spoiler alert! In case you haven't seen it. Stop reading and watch it, then meet me back here and I'll be waiting for you.
The episode this post is about is "Bow-racial." In this episode the mom, Rainbow, confronts her issues with identity when her son brings home his white girlfriend. Rainbow, who is often referred to as "Bow" in this series has to face her demons about growing up biracial. She, like other directly biracial people, expressed how she always felt the pressure to fit in with either whites or blacks. She recalled how she felt she had to consistently conform to what she her version of each group. When she was in high school she hung around with white girls who were very "valley" so she became "valley." In college she hung with black women who were 90s hip hop-ish, so that's who she felt she had to be. She lamented that she never "fit in" with either group. As I said, she is not the first biracial person to have said this. 

I feel for biracial people. I hate that they feel like they have to chose a side. When I was in grade school and high school, I had classmates of all hues and not one time did I feel like I had to be anyone other than who I was. I am not directly biracial; I am the product of different ethnicities; Hebrew (black), American Indian, Creole, and Dominican. If I were biracial though, I would tell anyone who has a problem with it where to go and how they can go about getting there. I would like to be biracial just so I can say that. On the show, a little girl Bow asked her black teacher which racial box she should choose on some form and the black teacher told her to check black. Well she said, "Girl, you betta check black!" Later in the episode she went to her white father and asked his opinion, he told her that she was a black woman. This shocked Rainbow and she questioned her father as to how he could say this when it virtually cut him out of her existence. He said because that's how the world sees her. That's a cool, selfless message but, I don't think it's ever a good idea to let "the world" define who you are; I thought that was your parents job. Is this what interracial parents have to tell their kids? I think Rainbow was born in the 70s so maybe they didn't have the luxury of being who they were back then they way biracial kids do now. I don't know. My younger brother is biracial but he has always identified as black. I don't think he has ever given it a second thought in his 18 years of life, if he has he's never mentioned it.

South African comedian, Trevor Noah, who hosts "The Daily Show" is biracial. He mentioned how when he comes across a "race box," sometimes he checks white and watch people lose their minds. 
His argument is,"Well, I am just as much white as I am black." I love that because it's a truth people hate to hear for some reason. If you own 50% of a company, you own it just as much as anyone else. Why deny it? To make someone else more comfortable by placing you where they think you belong? When you do this, you are just following the "One drop rule" without any prompting. How long are we going to subconsciously follow these slave mandates? It's insane. And then if you don't "look mixed" then you get a different kind of shade. There was a comedian, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney,
I remember this joke she told on a comedy program. Basically, she said she met a woman who was black and Japanese and who told Stickney her ethnic makeup. It was implied that this woman did not "look" like she had a Japanese father, so Stickney said she should have brought her father with her so that people would believe she was biracial. Of course, the delivery was a little different than my retelling here but you get the gist. Here again, it's about pleasing people. I know it's a joke but we all know people think this way. They think there's a certain way you're supposed to look when you're biracial. Because the mixture has to combine in the right percentages to make people feel comfortable labeling someone, right? I can't even.

And hey, my children may be biracial because, y'all know how I get down. But I plan on adopting, when I do, I have always wanted to have a family like Josephine Baker's, the original multi-ethnic mama, maybe not that big of a family, but the same idea. I won't go out of my way to search for kids by color but if the opportunity is there, I will take it. Like my pastor says of our multi-ethnic church, "This must be what heaven looks like." It may not be for everybody but, I feel like it's for me. But I also think everyone should at least intimately know someone who looks different than themselves. It opens up your world in ways you might not expect. Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way. It's easier to dispel myths and destroy lies that way too. And my kids, I will teach them to be proud of who they are and surround themselves with people whom they can connect with by interest and activity. Those who appreciate them for who they are and not what color their skin happens to be. Maybe this is easier said than done but really, it shouldn't be. Check all the boxes! Let them deal with their own demons. Good show though, check it out.

Sincerely,
Helen Willis, The Zebress