& mixing

New perspectives on mixed-race Britons

A CRE eConference · 4-6 September 2007

Forum: Day 2, Interaction
Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 00:54:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
Why do some mixed families and people feel that their mixedness is problematic and others do not? Should we focus be on those within the family or those outside it?

Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 09:33:00
Posted by: Eve Ahmed
I believe that all children will go through a phase of disliking being mixed. This usually happens at adolescence when all teens, regardless of colour, fret about their identity and where they fit in. This worry is heightened if you are mixed. However, it is a stage that can be worked through, with loving parents who are aware of the particular feelings their mixed teen will be experiencing, and who are open to talking about these feelings. Could I recommend www.csbchome.org here? Francis Wardle runs the Center for the study of biracial children and has some excellent advice on parenting mixed kids. Basically, he says kids need to be exposed to both sides of their heritage to emerge with healthy self-image. Common sense really, but how often does that happen?

Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 11:55:00
Posted by: Sharon Walker
I think that there is a problem with the way that society in general speaks about individuals from mixed (black/white) heritages which could play a detrimental role in how young people come to understand themselves. When I was at school I can remember that the mixed race children (black/white) often (I'd actually say in most circumstances from my memory) hung out with those children who were black (that is obviously from physical appearance from an African or Afro-Caribbean heritage, although in reality, as it is in my case our histories do not always show themselves on our skin-there is white European ancestry on both sides of my family). Why is this? Why do mixed race black/white children often feel more comfortable or more pressured to identify with their 'blackness'? I read an article a few days ago which pointed out how we often, even if the person before our eyes is of mixed heritage such as is the case with Lewis Hamilton and Leona Lewis, describe these people as being black: the first black winner of the Xfactor and the first black formula one racer? I think that in order to support young people in living the fullness of all of their identities that society needs to rethink the way that it uses words to categorize and talk about individuals. I think that it is natural for mixed race youngsters(for anyone) to want to understand how they identify with people around them whether it be with family or the wider society and I think that society through the media etc. often fails by giving the suggestion that if you have a visible 'drop' of 'black' blood in you, that we will categorize with 'blackness'. Just to finish, a few weeks ago at a gathering of friends, I noticed that a little 7 year old girl had spent most of the time watching me intently. She was of mixed heritage (Black African father and White German mother). After a little while she came and asked me if I would be her godmother (I had never met her before!). Curious to know the reasoning behind her question, I asked why. She replied: because you are black and I like your ear-rings! We have since been in touch. I have thought carefully about her since that time. Maybe her need to identify with me as black is unique to her circumstance. However, I can't help but wonder if it points to wider issues surrounding the role of both family and society to support youngsters like herself to understand where they belong and not to assume on their behalf.

Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 06/09/2007 11:21:00
Posted by: Ben S
I strongly disagree that all mixed race go through a phase of disliking being mixed. I'm offended by that, and it's a very ignorant thing to say. I find your post is nothing more than a racist stereotype of what you think mixed race people are, which is mixed up. This polite way of saying mixed race children need to be exposed to both cultures, is often said to make mixed race people feel confused and guilty about being mixed race. People who say this crap, often have the view that the none white ethnic side of there culture should be the dominant culture.

Many mixed race children who are now adults like myself and football star Ashley Cole have grown up in mainly white culture, and are very well adjusted and successful men. And for the record myself and other mixed race people I've known, and never gone through a phase of disliking being mixed race. The likes of Linda Bellos have spent a live time hating being mixed race. She's the stereotype mixed race people are fighting against.

Mixed Race children should not be force fed race and culture at a young age. That really would be messing with a childs mind of regardless of their race.

Mixed Race kids don't need to be brought up with both cultures. More often than not, one culture will be the dominant one. What's important is that mixed race children are just brought up as nothing more than happy and well behaved children. And their parents of two different races should show them things from their own backgrounds and life experiences. That way a mixed race child will be proud of both of there cultures, even if one is far more dominant than the other.

Re:Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 07/09/2007 09:30:00
Posted by: eve ahmed
Ben S - I don't like you accusing me of being racist and ignorant, because I am neither. I wrote my comment based upon my own experience of being mixed and upon the stories I have heard as a journalist who has interviewed mixed people. You have the right to disagree with my view, but you do not have the right to insult me.

Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 09:49:00
Posted by: Bob Macintosh
I don't know about other families but I know that the family I come from is a direct reflection of a fragmented and divided society. One side is 'happy' and the other side is 'problematic' and each identity depends on the other. One side is symbolically white, priveleged and the other black and disadvantaged. A symbolic colour line cuts through the family dynamics which must not be trangressed under any circumstances - the image of a 'happy' family must be adhered to. Racial features play a part in this though the real issue is the proximity to white patriarchal power.
I call it 'miscegenation mitosis' and this relates directly to the nature of desire and voice.

What do you mean by "our" focus?

Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 10:04:00
Posted by: Bob Macintosh
Sorry, the last post was my partner Isabel Adonis, stealing my identity. :-)

Re:Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 10:46:00
Posted by: Hamish Macpherson
Isabel - 'we'/'our refers to anyone with an interest in understanding and supporting mixed relationships - researchers, policymakers, the voluntary and commmunity sector, e-conference attendees...

Re:Re:Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 11:45:00
Posted by: Isabel Adonis
Well, this we/our which is outside of the family is also the same inside the family, which is the point I am making. The fragmentation is inside and outside. One side of society is dependent for their identity on the other side and it this separation that creates division.
It's the nothing wrong with us...it's them kind of thing.
best Isabel

Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 12:00:00
Posted by: Sharon Walker
I agree with that Isabel. I think that the two are intricately interwoven.

Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 11:18:00
Posted by: Eve Ahmed
Certain cultures will be more amenable to mixing than others. Muslim families, as recent research showed, are most resistant to mixing. Anecdotally, I hear that - usually - African Caribbean families do not have a particular issue with their sons or daughters 'marrying out'. Maybe this is to do with religion. Muslims tend to be infused with the baggage that comes with faith throughout all aspects of their daily living. In my case, I was 'disowned' by my Pakistani side for apparently living too much as a white girl, when I left home to go to uni. There had been huge resistance to my father marrying my white mum in the first place and the Pakistani side saw the whole episode as a shameful, troubled one and were probably glad to see the back of me. In which other cultures are children 'disowned' - am I right in thinking it is only very religious ones?

Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 12:17:00
Posted by: Sharon Walker
I think that being disowned expresses itself along a spectrum. I agree with what you say about afro-caribbean people seeming to be more at ease with 'marrying out' compared to their Asian counterparts (particularly, as you suggest, those with a strong religious background or beliefs. However, I would argue that people from our communities (and I'm talking about people who we see as belonging to the same racial community as ourselves) can distance themselves from us without the actual physical act of disowning you. I know, because of the choices that I've made in life: education; having a mixed group of friends (including white), the music that I listen to, even the way that I speak! has often left me on the outside of 'black' communities. People say that they do not know what to talk to me about, that I'm not black enough, that I don't speak black, that I'm a bounty or think that I'm white. As a result, I confess to my pain, that I sometimes feel uncomfortable in an all-black gatherings becasue I feel that it won't be long before somebody identifies me as an intruder or an outsider or as one who thinks that she is better than us. I am therefore in many ways ostricised but we just don't call it that.

Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 12:43:00
Posted by: Jessica
Through reading the experiences of families (in both personal and research articles) it seems that a pattern emerges, that being mixed becomes problematic to outsiders (neighbours, strangers) and insider/outsiders (extended family). Despite this, I don’t think it is useful to focus on either in isolation; by focusing our attention to families, for example, we can learn when at what points being mixed becomes problematic. As Chamion Caballero discusses in her paper, families do not necessarily view themselves as a culture clash, and different families employ a variety of approaches to foster healthy identities for their children—whether these identities be ethnically open, mixed or single. Exterior to the family come the projection of the most common stereotypes, ideas of what constitute a good mix and the bad (as Jin Haritaworn calls it) such as the hypersexualized nature of certain relationships—whether that is the white woman/black man scenario Chamion mentions, or the Thai women/white western man scenario I address in my paper. The good mix and the bad could even be extended to individuals. Just as relationships between certain ‘mixes’ can be pathologized, so too can people when those not representing themselves as ‘mixed race’ are assumed to be self-hating. The ‘good mix’ then becomes the person who self-identifies as mixed and the ‘bad mix’ becomes those who chose not primarily self-identify as mixed. However, as Miri Song highlights in her paper, being mixed can mean different things to different people and can be influenced by other aspects of being; people sometimes will self-identify with different terms for different occasions.

To then address the question of this thread, I think focus should be directed at families to determine what would be useful and effective in fostering healthy identities, but also focus should be directed to those outside the family to recognize experience is more complicated than good and bad mixes.

Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 22:30:00
Posted by: agnes poitevin-navarre
I am interested in the idea of 'symbolic white' and 'symbolic black', of gender affecting the self image, aspirations, expectations and level of individuation of the mixed race individual. By that I mean, the paradigm of 'black father-white mother' or 'white father-black mother' in relation to the gender of the offspring and also black parent originating from the African continent versus the Caribbean. Has there been any study conducted on this theme? What about statistics on the social mobility of mixed race people?
I was moved and inspired by Sir Keith Ajegbo's candide account of his life path and thoughts on being mixed race. Education is the key.

Another point I would like to make is the number of people who introduce their mixedness as a point of reference for others to place them is something that I find fascinating. Well I am mixed race, I am also very tall and very French even if I have lived in England for quite some time now. I am also an artist interested in the themes of identity, semantics, codes, maps, psychoanalysis... I am wife and a mother too.

To be defined merely by race is a terrible state of affair. Behind the melanin mask is a wealth of experiences and the cocoon of this E-conference is a great platform for people to 'come out'. How can policies be defined from that though?

Re:Re:Re:Family dynamics
Posted on: 05/09/2007 23:43:00
Posted by: Sharon Walker
Hi Agnes (my favourite French female name by the way!) I don't know the answer to your last question but I do think that policy formation needs to take into account the role of gender identities and how this plays out in mixed race settings. Suki Ali's paper touches a great deal on the potential of understanding more about the gender dimension of the mixed race experience(s). Although I am sure that some work has been carried out in this field (Suki would be better placed to answer that), I feel that more needs to be understood. These issues are important to policy makers as they address the strong interplay between gender and race, something which can not be underestimated. Although I am not able to quantify how my identity has formed I am sure that the fact of being both black and woman as oppose to black and man or white and woman, has had a great deal to do with that.