Tuesday, March 12, 2013

As "Mixies" go...

So I came across an article which seems to be burning its way through Toronto progressive facebook pages in my network anyhow, it's a Toronto Life article titled "Mixie Me" which is either a love it or hate it type of article by Nicholas Hunh-Brown. Judging by a lot of the comments, it seems hating is winning. I went into it looking for something to be offended by, but I couldn't.

Progressives are pissed off because he suggests that he hopes interracial mixing may have a role in reducing racism and makes some links to something that may point to that eleventy million years in the future. I couldn't see anywhere where he says "OMG! We're mixing, no more racism! Lets sing Ebony/Ivory and Kumbaya together!!!"

Conservatives are pissed off because again, another person who is non-white has the audacity to suggest, "Hey, simply being non-white gets me treated differently" Some dude asking him if the author has done anything productive with his life instead of playing identity politics. Um, commenter? Love it or hate it, the guy is writing for Toronto Life magazine and he seems to enjoy his life and job, so I'd say that's pretty productive.

Ultimately, the good thing, for better or worse, he's got people talking about race, which isn't easy in Canada because it's a topic people will go out of their way to ignore, unless to gloat about making a token friend or something like that. That and there are some interesting little interviews from kids on the topic, which I'm always interested in hearing about their experiences knowing my own. Much to my delight, I came across a kid I knew having attended the same Montessori as my boys. It would have been awesome if they got a picture with her brother, who has some seriously uniquely coloured hair and eyes. And why aren't the kids smiling? They're kids! They don't have to have the Dan Rather look on the topic that we adults do. They shouldn't look like they're about to testify at court. (Okay, petty complaint)

I'm a "mixie" I dunno, I don't like that term, I'm of mixed race. Growing up, my father insisted I was black, I didn't understand that, but granted, what 6 year old has a great grasp on colonial America and slavery, except that it was bad. My mother never really paid any mind. I didn't see another mixed race person in Toronto until I moved to Regent Park in the early 80's. When I moved there, I learned a shocking reality, I wasn't the only one of my kind, well me and Michael Jackson. All kidding aside about his issues with his skin, I was genuinely confused about his race as a kid.

So growing up, I dealt with the usual issues of hair misunderstandings with my mother, myself. I battled my father about me being mixed versus black. I battled off men, still do who fetishize me based on my races. I get to deal with people asking me where I'm REALLY from *eyeroll* or people ascertaining that I'm not really Canadian because I'm not white...stupid them, the non-whites in my family have been around for a hell of a lot longer than whites on this continent thankyouverymuch. I get to deal with the "Oh you're mixed, you're soooooo beautiful/smart/sexy/healthy" as if I wasn't so beautiful 12 seconds ago when they thought I was full blooded whatever the hell they thought I was. As a parent with mixed race children, but who are lighter skinned than me, I get to deal with questions about whether I'm their nanny (usually in areas like High Park, Rosedale, Yorkville, The Beach and the Annex). I get to deal with people wondering about my relationship and whether boyfriend is with me because he's into exoticization.

Biggest complaint, I have to choose sides all.the.freaking.time. There are few places where I can switch accents, colliquolisms, dances, foods, culture and still be accepted. When I'm with certain groups, I dare not break out into black slang and with other groups, I avoid talking about race and racism and how it affects me. When I'm in progressive circles, heaven forbid that I suggest being mixed allows me an interesting look at race and racism...heaven forbid any mixed race person does that. Because ultimately we're never going to have it as bad as this or that race, so we don't know what we're talking about. Or in conservative circles, again, we're told that we're not seen as someone with brown skin because we're just like them and they're colourblind. Um, okay. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't more pissed off at my progressive bretheren for shutting down the voices of mixed race authors, especially since we're supposed to be open to listening to different perspectives. HELLO??

What I think being mixed race has taught me more than anything is that life is not black or white. Yes, while I do identify as a deeply spiritual and deeply progressive person, some of the closest people to me in my life are conservatives in many ways, or atheists. People don't understand that. I travel in circles where I am only allowed to be one person or another. I favour circles where I can be both. While the devil's advocate can piss me off, so long as it's a respectful discourse, I can usually deal and walk away with a smile on my face and likely a new friend. What that has allowed me to do is to make many meaningful connections with a lot of great people.

Think about that, people making meaningful connections with other people because they don't want to be black or white. Because they have forced to be black or white, him or her, progressive or conservative and are sick to death of it. Why can't I be racially mixed, sometimes honouring my black American roots, sometimes honouring my Irish, sometimes honouring my Sioux roots? Why can't I passionately believe in being progressive on issues x, y, and z but think more conservatively on issues a and b? Why can't I think Paganism and Christiannity both have good points? It's not just limited to race, but everything! Why can't a mixed person have an interesting take on racism and dare hope that maybe the mixing of races in our homes and families and close communities can be the beginning of opening up discourse, hearts and minds? I'm sure it can be academiced (new word) to death, and while race theory and advanced thoughts need to be discussed, I'd bet my house that you're just as likely to get through to a closed mind with kind interactions through people as you are with tonnes of theory and there needs to be space in all forums for the recognition for that.

Sound Pollyanna-ish? Yeah probably, but I think throughout history, productive leaders have motivated people to do massive things through 1 of 2 means. Fear or a great deal of respect, and for that great deal of respect, there needs to be that connection whether someone is personally connected or not, they still feel that. And you rarely get a connection with good diverse groups of people by being black or white, but by recognizing that shades of grey isn't a poorly written book, it's life and we need to respect that from various angles, and especially when talking about race, race relations and moving forward.

So this my shout out to listening to people who live in between the binary, whether they have been forced to, or choose to, try to listen, that middle place is uncomfortable for many, but all in all, if we all inhabited it respectfully, I doubt that there would be much space left for those who choose to live or die in the black and white.

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