Black White Man

My mother is black, and my father is white. I walk among you.

Archive for the ‘Famous Mulattos’

Malcolm Gladwell’s hair

I don’t know whether this is true or apocryphal, but I’ve heard that Malcolm Gladwell’s book Tipping Point was inspired by his experiences as a multiracial man growing out his hair. He felt that when his hair was shorter, he was generally assumed to be and treated as a white guy. As his hair grew out, there was some length at which people would suddenly start to assume him to be and treat him as a black guy. In particular, he would start to get pulled over more often. This story, although it may not be true, resonates with me as a light-skinned guy with thick, curly, black hair. The main reason that I keep my hair longer is that when I don’t I get a lot more resistance if I mention being Black. When my hair is short the reaction is generally, “What?? No way! You’re crazy!”. When my hair is long the reaction is generally, “Huh. I wouldn’t have guessed that, but, yeah, I guess I see it.” So my life, my daily conversations, are just a little bit easier when my hair is long.

The Curious Case of Tiger Woods: is he Black or Asian?

Yesterday I blogged about a conversation I had with some of my drinking buddies about whether or not Obama is really our first Black president. As annoying as most of that conversation was, there were a few novel and interesting bits. At one point someone brought up the case of Tiger Woods: that he is considered a “Black golfer”, but that he self identifies as Asian.

If you’ve read that post, or much of my blog at all, you might guess at my response. I lean toward the idea that he “all of the above”. So, I would tend to answer the question of whether he’s Black, White or Asian with, “yes”. But, I also tend to very much respect the idea that people who fall at the edges of our system of racial categories have some power to decide for themselves. It has a lot to do with our relationships to our parents, and our home countries, which is an intensely personal thing. One of the main reasons I identify so strongly as being Black is the close and good relationship that I have to my mother and her extended family. On some level, when people tell me I’m not Black, it says to me that she and hers are somehow not my kin. For all I know, Tiger had a similarly close relationship to his mother. In any case, it may not be true that he identifies more strongly as Asian than he does as Black or White — I have also often heard that he self-describes as “Caublinasian”. But, regardless, I feel like it’s his prerogative, since our classification system clearly has a hard time describing him.

Jennifer Beals

Not to be confused with Jessica Beals, who is not, as far as I know, Black in any way. Jennifer Beals is the 80s icon who was in Flashdance. And she’s recently had a bit of a comeback with both “The L Word” and “Chicago Code”. She actually comes from Chicago. I live in Chicago now, and I feel like there’s a special meaning, for me, to know that she’s biracial from the Windy City. This city is so very segregated. Ms. Beals is a South Sider, but her dad is African American and her mom is Irish American. These are usually populations that don’t mix overly. I’m not usually one to fawn over celebrities if I happen to run into them in person (which I’ve done once or twice). But, I would love to ask Ms. Beals what it was like growing up biracial in Chicago in the 1970s.

Great Post about Jennifer Beals [via Black Snob]

Walter White: the most ironically named Black White Man?

Particularly as the father of a blond, blue-eyed boy who has some vague claim to African American heritage, I am very heartened to read about this guy, Walter White.    White was a head of the NAACP, a contributor to the “Harlem Renaissance”, and a graduate from a historically Black university.   He was an African American.   He was also blond and blue-eyed.    From, Wikipedia:

Of mixed race with African and European ancestry, White’s appearance showed his high proportion of European ancestry. He emphasized in his autobiography, A Man Called White (p. 3): “I am a Negro. My skin is white, my eyes are blue, my hair is blond. The traits of my race are nowhere visible upon me.” Five of his great-great-great-grandparents were black and the other 27 were white.

Note that, out of my son’s great-great-great-grandparents, six were Black, one was Cherokee and 25 were white.

Obama’s Victory Speach – Iowa Caucus

For those of you who may have missed it:

Good speech. He yet again managed to move me emotionally without saying anything in particular. But, the more I think about it, the more I think that that may actually be the job of a president. The president doesn’t actually do much. He sets tone. He makes speaches. He’s a leader. But the people getting the job done are in the capital building. So, maybe an Obama is just what we need.

Plus I think it’ll do wonders for the confidence of both African Americans and Black Africans.

Is it just me, or is Obama consciously trying to emulate the Revered Dr. Martin Luther King in his vibrato intonation of “they SAID…”?

Mulatto Queen

Here’s something a little lighter for this upcoming holiday season:

As a biracial person I often have a hard time envisioning history the way it seems most people do. I can’t easily imagine myself even existing in previous eras — but when I come across biracial people in history, like this fine lady or the great Russian poet Pushkin, it helps me to contextualize that multi-racial relationships and therefore multiracial people are nothing new.

A Black White Woman

It’s amazing to me how the ethnicity of African people can be judged solely on the color of their skin. Looking at this beautiful woman from a recent Marie Claire article, it’s clear to me that she’s Black… even though she’s not, um, Black. Her nose, lips, eyes and hair are all purely African. It’s no suprise that she’s an albino. And yet, from her own account, she generally taken to be white by strangers. This is mind-boggling to me.Kenosha Robinson

Obama: is he Black

In a word, yes. And the question is ridiculous.

In college, my roomate for two years was a good friend of mine who was born in Nigeria and moved to Long Island at a young age. For as long as he could remember, he was here in the States. When I first met him he would wonder whether he was “African American”, or simply “African”. He wondered if perhaps he shouldn’t be called “African American” because his ancestors had no heritage of slavery.