To some who participate in the discussion of race and how to draw its boundaries, color is shrugged off as only surface tension. By surface tension I don’t mean relation to density, but more literally that color is a concept whose tension only permeates through an outer “surface” layer of racial issues.
In my last lengthy post I touched a bit on how multi-racial individuals may perceive the idea of racial categories and which ones they belong to. What I want to bring forward now is something a little more obvious; something easier on the eyes. The color of a person is, for many of us, one of the first things we notice about someone upon seeing them. In many circumstances it may be one of the first things we inquire about when only hearing about said person. Now does that make the inquirer or observer racist, biased, or politically incorrect? Maybe not.
Social norms, alone, are incentive enough for even the most open minded person to make a mental mark of another person’s skin color right off the bat. Where prejudice might make an appearance is when we ascribe characteristics or behavior to someone else, based solely off of color
But why should I explain all that? Well… in order to talk about color from the perspective of a mixed person, I find it important to first give some background on perceptions of color and how they can be interpreted.
Renowned ballerina Misty Copeland once told an interviewer that her mom’s words, “Yes, you are Italian, you are German, and you are black, but you are going to be viewed by the world as a black woman” resonated with her once she entered the white-dominated world of professional ballet. When I read these words I immediately felt a connection with this woman I’d never payed attention to before. I may be half Chinese, but because of my outward appearance, I may never pass as Chinese in the eyes of many who limit race to homogeneously dominated physical traits within a people. My sister is just as much Chinese as I am, but her skin color is much whiter than mine, leading some people to believe she couldn’t possibly be 50% Manchurian-Chinese. But she is.
As it is, the color of my skin is most similar to someone from the Middle Eastern country, Persia maybe. I have many friends whose mixed parentage resulted in a color that is neither that of the father or mother’s. It can really add to uncertainty in one’s racial identity when the first thing people notice about you becomes precedent for their conceptions of who you are, especially when they’re not even close to correct, they may be dead wrong.
Again, these are things I hope we can all take a second to consider. In a country where racism is still alive and prevalent, and even on a campus where forms of social justice are pitted against themselves because of high social tension, a bit of understanding goes a long way.
Also, here’s some music from one of my favorite rappers with his thoughts on a not too dissimilar topic: