Today, the final installment of the documentary The Loving Generation was released (please go check out “Episode 1: Checking Boxes,” “Episode 2: We Are Family,” “Episode 3: Coming of Age” and “Episode 4: The Obama Era”). Full disclosure: I’m in the documentary. It explores the stories of biracial black-and-white children born after the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, which outlawed the ban on interracial marriage in the United States.
I’ve watched all of the episodes intently and with a lot of curiosity. It was very well produced, and I believe it touched on many interesting facets of the “black” or “mixed” experience that I’d never thought about. One could say that it was provocative and got the people going. I had some thoughts.
1. Last November, I received a message from Lacey Schwartz about including me in a digital documentary on black-white biracial children. For the vast majority of my adult life—and hell, even my youth—I didn’t spend much time talking about or “being” biracial. Yeah, I’m mixed, but, well, nobody cared. At least in my life, anyway. So going into the filming of my interview, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I enjoyed the experience.
2. Regarding the documentary itself, I enjoyed it as a whole. The producers did a good job bringing various types of folks together, each telling a diverse story about what it’s like being biracial in America. There were different viewpoints—many of us consider ourselves black with white parents, while others view themselves as mixed or biracial, and we all have our reasons for those decisions. The presentation of perspectives was well-done.
3. On a personal level, I not only root for everybody black—I typically just assign everybody who “looks mixed” to the black community until they tell me otherwise. It’s just easier for my own life, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Do you, boo, of course. Live your life, and this above all: To thine own self be true. But I did learn something from those whose decision isn’t so black and white. Pun intended.
4. I’m not a unicorn, of course, but I have normalized my own existence for my sanity, and it turns out it’s not normal at all. Though I’m mixed, I was not raised that way and largely wasn’t raised by my white mother. I was raised by a black woman, and I can’t overstate the importance of that fact for how it influenced my sense of self. The entire third episode, “Coming of Age,” is about growing up mixed, and, well, I didn’t.
There’s a reason I’m not in that episode at all (there are other folks who aren’t, too), and it’s that I don’t have any of those difficult self-identity episodes or struggles. White people were the feds. I stayed on the black-hand side with my people and nobody ever questioned it. It’s interesting, though. The stories of people who did have to contend with that identity struggle and their socialization aren’t necessarily new.
5. I’d like to thank my parents for shielding me, whether intentionally or (more likely) accidentally, from any of those struggles growing up. Life is hard enough for kids in school; I can’t imagine fighting “You can’t sit with us” battles, too.
6. I actually wonder if anybody knew—in high school, anyway—or thought my mother was white at all until I told them. When my family moved to Alabama, we moved there with my dad and black mother. She was there for everything—my dad was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., and he’d be there during the week and home on weekends—so I’m guessing nobody thought twice about it. I remember telling a few of my friends in my AP English class once (though I have no idea how it came up) and nobody believing me. Everybody was like, “But we’ve seen your mama.”
In college, that same thing happened; nobody knew until I told them. Nothing profound here, but I wonder how different my story would be if I looked more “mixed.”
7. I have talked to my little sister about this: I do sometimes wonder what life would have been like had we been raised by our white mother. Not for a lack of trying, but I think life would have been a lot harder. We weren’t exactly living well when we were with her. I remember struggles and hardship. But also, it would have literally been just us and my white single mother. I don’t know how I’d have turned out.
Maybe I’d be one of those folks who identify as mixed so as not to erase my mother (as I’ve been told that I do). I doubt I’d be as “black” as I am. I’d most likely have grown up outside of Detroit in smaller, more rural communities. I love my life, so I’m not yearning for any alternatives, but I have thought about an upbringing where the only black music I listened to was Michael Jackson and, oddly, Peaches and Herb. My mother loves “Reunited.”
8. Since I wrote that article on my mother back in August, I’ve spent more time being mixed than I ever have in life. Being mixed has been exhausting. I may delve further into that one day, but man, I cannot imagine having spent the entirety of my life attempting to deal with two racial identities and providing active space for them both. I’ve never spent this much time analyzing my family racial dynamics, and it’s, like, a lot. I’m good, b. Wakanda forever and shit.
9. I want to thank Lacey, Anna Holmes and Mehret Mandefro for having me be part of this documentary. It’s kind of cool when what you write gets you asked to be part of a project that can exist for eternity and allow you to revisit yourself in the future to see how you’ve changed (or not).
10. I think the underpinning of all my thoughts on being biracial is how vital the role your parents play in shaping a positive self-image and healthy self-esteem. Your parents’ politics (or lack thereof) are going to be a heavy influence on your own, especially while you’re young. I like to think of myself as pretty grounded, and I know I owe that entirely to my parents and the life they surrounded me with—again, whether entirely intentional or not.