The Wormiest of Cans: who gets to be “mixed race”?

The Wormiest of Cans: who gets to be “mixed race”?


Thea Lim

A few days ago on Facebook I watched two community activists have a throwdown over the phrase “mixed race.”

It began when Activist X posted a link to this article about the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and noted with some irritation that despite the festival’s claims to inclusivity, there were no Latin@s mentioned in the article. X asked: if Latin@ people are the largest group of multiracial people in the Americas and the festival is supposed to be open to everybody, why weren’t Latin@ people included? A few people agreed with X, and some people who had been at the festival said that they thought Heidi Durrow and the festival were great, but that they could see X’s point.

Enter Activist Y: after expressing some trepidation, Y said that the festival was using the term “mixed race” or “multiracial” to refer to people who had parents of two or more different racial categorisations. Activist Y said that if your whole family shared the same ethnic identity, then you were not mixed in the way the festival intended.

Dear Racializens, I am sure you can imagine what happened next: a veritable Facebook wall brawl — albeit one that was highly intellectual and restrained. Most people sided with X (it was X’s wall to begin with) and Y, after making several long attempts to explain themselves, eventually left in a digital huff.

This exchange brought back some of the most difficult writing that I have ever done on Racialicious: where readers challenged my right to call myself, as a mixed race person with parents of two different races, mixed in a separate way from those who are mixed race but share the same identity as their whole family, for e.g. folks who are mestizo, Creole, African American, Metis, Peranakan…

…Using the term “mixed race” in this narrow way is to systematically erase ethnic histories that bear witness to slavery and colonization; or simply, to erase ethnic histories, period. To do so can be read as an act of white supremacy: it covers up the fact that many Americans, regardless of skin colour or the stories elders are willing to tell, have mixed lineages. To do this silences a whole community’s right to express their experience…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: ,