Today I stumbled upon a Buzzfeed video entitled, “The Struggles of Being Mixed-race.” It was a short video with different snippets of subjects talking about the experiences being mixed and what their race means to them. Like many other Buzzfeed videos, the video left the audience empowered and thinking radically. Personally, I thought it was a well-made video, but much too brief to fully express mixed-race identities.
The comments to this video are what sparked my attention. There were many people who said things along the lines of, “What’s the big deal? It’s not bad being mixed-race. People create problems that aren’t even there and it’s so annoying.”
Maybe it was because the subjects in the video talked about how they are constantly mistaken for other races, and made it seem like a burden. However, I don’t think this was their intention at all. It’s not a burden getting asked what race we are. I’ve grown to actually like it- tell me what you think I am, and I’ll probably get super excited if your guess is wrong. I look half-Japanese? Man, I wish I was. I look half-Russian? That’d be cool, but no.
I think many mixed-race individuals would agree with me when I say that it’s not a “struggle” being mixed… Or at least, our “struggle” is no greater than other people’s “struggle.” We have different experiences due to our race, but they are different compared to the experiences of other races.
My freshman year of college, I was required to take a writing class for one of my general ed requirements. Because it was a GE, I was not looking forward to it. The topic for our class was “Visual Art and Contemporary Media.” With such an ambiguous title, I had no idea what we would be writing about. Our instructor told us that our research topic would be the basis for all three of our papers… So in other words, choose wisely. She also said, “Pretty much everything falls under the term ‘contemporary media.’ Choose something that interests you, and then see how it is represented in today’s world.”
Still lost, I decided to talk to my instructor about my interests and hopefully decide on a topic. I had recently taken a sociology class and was introduced to the idea of race being a social construct, so I thought of writing about the different meanings of the word ‘race.’ The first thing she asked me was, “Ana, what are you?”
Because I was initially talking about it (and also because I get asked this question a lot), I knew she was asking me about my race. I replied with my normal response to this question: “I’m half-Filipina and half-Mexican.”
Interestingly, I never gave my race much thought. The fact that I am biracial never seemed like a topic I could study. It definitely didn’t seem like a topic I could write three papers about. However, my instructor introduced me to the idea of race being based purely off of self-identification. She showed me other articles about mixed-race identity and I learned that it is actually a big topic of conversation in regards to contemporary media.
Eventually, I decided to write about how the lack of certain terminology causes issues of self-identity. I drew upon personal experiences and contemporary examples of famous mixed-race individuals like Barack Obama, in order to prove that this “struggle” of being mixed-race is deeply rooted in language.
What I enjoyed about the Buzzfeed video mentioned previously was the fact that they touched upon stereotypes and how they fit into this conversation about mixed-race individuals. If you look at me, my physical features are not the stereotypical “Filipina features” nor are they the stereotypical “Mexican features.” Eventually, my features will turn into the stereotypical “Mixed-race features,” but not quite yet… Maybe in a few more decades.
Anyways, I firmly believe that it is the amalgamation of the stigmas associated with racial terms like white, black or even mixed that causes problems of self-identity. The only way these problems are established in the first place is through language and the specific words associated with certain groups of people. Therefore, studying mixed-race further complicates the term race and makes us question what constitutes identity.
In regards to video comments about “mixed-race people creating a problem that doesn’t even exist,” I say that they aren’t understanding what we are trying to say. As stated before, the problems we face as mixed-race individuals are miniscule. They’re no greater than the problems other races face. However, studying mixed-race identities does tell us that there is a problem- not with being mixed, but with relying on racial terms as a means of identity.
It is funny how a Buzzfeed video sparked all these thoughts, but it reminded me that there is so much more to this “mixed-race conversation” than we think. There are so many layers to it. It also reminded me that (maybe) GE’s have a purpose… or at least, (maybe) we can apply what we learn from them to everyday life. Just maybe.