The Fallacy of “I Ain’t Black – I’m Mixed!”

“Rapper,” “actor,” and TV host Lil Bow Wow said something stupid this morning on Twitter (of course). Yeah, I know. When doesn’t he?

But today, Bow Wow claimed that he couldn’t relate to the Civil Rights struggle because he was mixed.

To further illustrate his point, he showed a photo of his estranged father. So yeah, he’s “mixed” in the sense that he has some interracial lineage going far back. Under that definition, everyone under the sun is mixed. But for Bow Wow, who once hosted 106 & Park on Black Entertainment Television, it’s why he cannot relate to the Civil Rights movement or Black Lives Matter.

Now, as a person with born from a multiracial family (mix that Negro with White/Latino and you get a Pino), I make it my business not to lecture “mixed” people on how to identify. I find such exercises somewhat pointless, particularly given the inherent silliness and ludicrousness of the concept of race. I cared less when Raven Symonè said pretty much the same thing a year or so ago because like Bow Wow, since she’s always saying something dumb.

However, as I was once told by a Black woman (hint: she birthed me), “Yeah you’re mixed. But White folks aren’t gonna accept your BLACK ass as White. When a White cop pulls you over, they’re gonna see a Black man.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong about the officers.

I’m not supporting the one-drop of blood hoopla or even denying the specific experiences of multiracial people. Trust me, I can write extensively on the latter. I’m not even denying how silly race really is as a social construct. Rather, I’m trying to explicate why saying “I’m not Black, I’m mixed” is a fallacy, especially given the social reality of race and racism.

If the title of my blog doesn’t give it away, I’m Black. I’m  also what’s known as a “light bright,” or “high yellow.” I’m rarely ever confused for a White person by anyone, but for the most part, folks are aware that I’m not just one race or ethnicity. Yeah, there was some hostility from other Black people because of my heritage, but I wasn’t a “tragic mulatto” trope in the sense I felt divided between two races. I just had difficulty proving to some folks (many of whom were ignorant anyway) that I was a part of the diaspora and that I had both a shared experience and my own realities as a mixed person.

Nevertheless, as soon as I was told I was Black at the age of 6, I pretty much never went back. I’m not Black because my I don’t have that “good hair.” It’s not because I love Hip-Hop, read Malcolm X, or drink Hennessy (buy my that for my upcoming b-day folks). It’s not just because my family is Black or my ancestors were slaves. I’m Black because I was made to realize at a young age that I was not, nor ever shall be, White. It didn’t matter if I had a White father or grandmother. I was still going to be Black and die that way too.

Blackness goes beyond the parameters instituted by a largely White Western Civilization. Black people, or Blackness, encompasses all skin-tones, hair types, and ethnic affiliation (i.e., Gullah, Afro-Latin, Mande, etc.,). It’s not so much a race in the biological sense (no race is), but a lived and shared experience based on a multitude of things including skin color, culture, and/or history. Now given the history of miscegenation prior to, during, and after slavery, every Black American is mixed with something. A lot of us do have White/European ancestry and as such, there’s no such thing as a “pure” black person (or a pure White person for that matter). The difference lies in how people interact with their multiracial heritage and how that can help them formulate their identity.

I can bring up the Creoles, Black Indigenous (or Zambos), and all the mulattos (quadroons, octoroons, quintroons, etc.,) to show the range of Black identity. I could bring up famous Black folks with mixed heritage, lighter skin, such W.E.B. Du Bois, Freida Washington, and the Head of the Motherf*cking State Barack Obama – all of whom were aware and proud to be Black! And Black people accept(ed) them!

Go to any Black family reunion or cookout and you’ll find all shades of Black people. You’ll also find Black people throwing shade at various shades because of their shade. But it is what it is! They’re still going to accept their high yellow nephew (hi aunties!) or their light-bright-close-to-White cousin as Black. We’re all going to talk smack while playing dominoes. We’re going to hog the Hennessy and drink up the gin. And we’re all going to do the Electric Slide with the uncles wearing the Fedora hat and the wingtip!

So yes, you can be mixed and still be Black at the same damn time. One does not have to privilege one heritage or identity over the other. Unless you’re identifying yourself as White, it’s not a zero sum game. But even when I tell others mixed, I know damn well that I’m a Black multiracial person. Or…Black! 

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