In Irish Pride, Lucas Costello shares an intense, dark memoir of life with an alcoholic Irish dad and a teetotalling Filipino mom.Read More
Being mixed-race and dating is more than just "oh, you're gorgeous!" and "mixed babies are so cute!" By Adebe DeRango-Adem takes a moment to unpack the baggage of dating and fetishization when dating interracially.Read More
Last Friday, we hosted a Twitter chat on interracial and intercultural dating to kickoff this week's posts. Here are some of the highlights...thanks very much to everyone who participated. Keep reading and commenting!
Gold Stone Noodle Restaurant on Spadina has been the source of my weekly Chinese food fix since before I can remember. When I started going there, it was a homely Chinatown hub that served up a cheap abundance of Southern Chinese delights. These days, it’s the same homely hub with the same delights, for only slightly more money. Over the years, I’ve developed that sought-after server-customer relationship: I say “the usual,” she brings me a steaming bowl of noodle soup with succulent Sui Kau dumplings stuffed with shrimp, pork and black fungus, alongside a light green bulb of bok choy and thick slices of barbecued pork and duck.Read More
By Renée Sylvestre-Williams
I recently tweeted that I wore sunblock for three reasons: Vanity, health and post-colonialism. Then I took a moment to actually read what I wrote and then I looked at my coffee table and saw the following:
Roc’s Soleil Protexion+ in SPF 60
Neutrogena UltraSheer Dry Touch in SPF 45
Clinique Body Creme in SPF 30
and Lubriderm Moisturizer with Sunscreen in SPF 15
To say I’m slightly obsessed with sunblock is a bit of an understatement. I’ve been wearing sunblock religiously since I was 18 years old. Prior to that it was only when I was going to the beach and then my mother would slather it on us before letting us run wild on the beaches of Mayaro or Maracas.
Even now, as some friends hit the shelves for self-tanner or the beach for the actual tan, I’m checking my shoulders after a day out to ensure I didn’t get tan lines.
I started wearing sunblock for three reasons. The first is thanks to magazines that said that the sun ages you. I’m vain enough to not want to be wrinkled so I slather it on every day – even in winter.
The second reason is skin cancer. My grandmother told me that she was a redhead – which is slightly suspicious as she also told me she didn’t remember her original hair colour. My mother and brother were strawberry blondes when they were children and my sister used to burn and peel if she got too much sun. While it is less likely that people of colour will get skin cancer, it does happen. (pdf file)
Somewhere in my mind that meant I had to protect myself just in case. After all, you never know.
I also eyeball my moles suspiciously every time spring rolls around.
The third reason, and I’m not proud to admit this, is that I don’t want to get any darker. I’ve never consciously thought of this, but I’ve realized I’ve absorbed some colonialist (post-colonial?) thinking while growing up in Trinidad.
I once tried to explain to a friend that it’s not just black/white/indian/etc. It’s the shades of colour that matter as well. The lighter you were, the better jobs you could get or the better social connections – ie. marriage – you could make. Of course, money and class played a role, but the shade of brown helped as well.
My grandmother grew up during the British colonization of Trinidad. She was half-black and half-Portuguese. My grandfather, her husband, was of East Indian descent. While I wouldn’t call Granny racist, she was definitely affected by colonialism. I remember one Sunday I was driving to my uncle’s. We were on the road, I was doing 80 km and we were chatting – probably about dating, I’m not sure. Granny turned to me and said, “I don’t want you dating a black man.”
My immediate response was, “Ok, you realize you’re half-black, right?”
“That’s neither here nor there,” she said as we drove down Derry road on our way to Mississauga.
“Uh. I don’t know what to say and right now I’m driving. Let’s not discuss this,” was my weak response.
Was it racist? Yes. While I hesitate to sound like I’m justifying why she said what she said, I understood where Granny was coming from. Here was an 80-something (at the time) woman who had grown up when the British ruled the country which meant a colour hierarchy was in place. In her own way, Granny was trying to ensure that any children I had would have the ‘advantage’ of having light skin.
It was a small moment in an enclosed space but it summed up the convoluted history of Trinidad, race and the colour hierarchy.
So what does that mean now? Well, I still wear sunblock primarily because I don’t want to get wrinkles, but every time I slather myself that conversation pops into my head.
By Kelli Korducki
Yesterday, I had brief but angst-ridden Twitter exchange with two friends regarding the inner turmoil of being a half-breed. We were prompted by the re-tweet of a Thought Catalog piece bluntly titled, “How to be Racially Ambiguous,” but, at least personally, this is a discussion that replays itself internally at least once per day.
Some personal background: I grew up having to check off a box inscribing my ethnic identity to the Milwaukee Public Schools’ quota-minded database every time I took a standardized test. I was told, by my parents, that the appropriate bubble for my No.2 lead smudge was “Hispanic,” so that’s where I put it. And that’s where it felt right, really. After all, hadn’t I grown up sharing a residence with a pair of non-English speaking refugee grandparents? Hadn’t I been subjected to toddler-era questioning, by my mother, over whether I was “Gringa o Salvadoreña?” wherein responses other than the latter would result in tickle torture to the brink of tears?
I grew up in a truly bi-cultural setting, with two bilingual parents who worked (and continue to work) in a largely Spanish speaking, Latin-American immigrant environment. But I also grew up white. I came out the spitting image of my Polish/German-American father, and I wonder how different my life would have been if the opposite had been true.
Truth is, it’s hard to live in between the lines; at some point you wind up becoming one thing or the other. Boring and cliche as this is bound to sound, society puts you up to it. And despite my parents’ best wishes, I suspect people are more inclined to process me as “white girl with Mestiza mother” (if, in fact, they know of my parentage at all) than “Latina girl” or “mixed-race kid.” Perhaps this is because of my unaccented English, the lack of melanin in my complexion, the fact that I have a name like “Kelli Korducki,” or that I dress more like Aimee Mann circa 1984 than a chola.
I may rock the white priv, but it’s never sat so great. I grew up speaking Spanish and attending quinces, and dancing merengue and bachata, while simultaneously feeling like I was a stranger in my dominant culture just because I looked more like I stepped off a boat from Poland (thanks, Papa) than my Salvadoran immigrant mother. Growing up, I would hear peoples’ reactions to my mom speaking to me in Spanish–rude stage whispers, in English (which both my mother and I could understand), about how people shouldn’t be allowed in America without being able to speak English–and I would burn inside while my mother dutifully rolled her eyes and moved along. They never assumed I was her daughter, which always stung me.
Back to the Thought Catalog piece. “Why would you want to be just one simple, uncomplicated race when you can make yourself more interesting at parties with your heightened sense of worldliness and traumatic multi-racial identity?” asks Carmen Villafañe. This is totally tongue-in-cheek, by the way. Sure, it’s great having that invisible backback to carry around when convenient, so that you can take people by surprise with your wacky “ethnic” background tales, but sometimes you want to feel your mother’s discrimination. Not because it will give you cool stories and street cred, but because she is your fucking mother. That is half of you. Just as much of you as anything else.
Segue: my best friend in the whole entire world, Carmen, is a blonde, blue-eyed, sunburn-prone curlytop of a babe who is both the hottest Fulbright scholar you will ever wish to have met and, also, a total halfie. African-American dad, white mom. We met in high school and immediately bonded over our shared neurosis, lit love, and half-breed status. Our 10th grade English teacher called us “fake minorities;” we called each other “house slaves.” We made inappropriate jokes over our mixed identities, because that was the only way we knew how to celebrate them. We live an ocean apart now, but I think our halfie status is one of the main reasons we’re still BFFs. No one understands a halfie like another.
So, recent news: a few weeks ago, I caught a Tweet from my younger brother, Casey. “I’m a McNair Scholar!” he announced. Casey is his university’s VP for MEChA, an American Chicano student organization–which means my li’l bro wears his Latino identity a little more prominently than I. The McNair scholarship is a “minority scholarship,” and Casey felt nervous interviewing for it. “I know I’m not the candidate you have in mind for this,” he nervously told them. Needless to say, they gave it to him anyway.
I guess I don’t know how to close this subject, so I’ll just say this: It’s hard to be a halfie, because on the one hand you’re so damn privileged, but on the other, you never know where you belong. I suspect it’s an issue I’ll have to grapple with for my entire life, and my children (provided I have any) will also have to carry on the baggage–because, regardless of our Canadian dwelling, they will be Spanish-English bilingual or not exist at all. And, while my brothers and I will always have the unassumingly white names of “Kelli,” “Casey,” and “Ricky,” we are still the amalgamations of our heritage: “Kelli María,” “Casimir Enrique,” and “Richard Fernando.” We fit outside the box. And, increasingly, so do many others. We halfies are boundfor themainstream, and conversations about race are destined to change for good.
Globe Toronto writer Kelli Korducki writes on the occasional strangeness of being mixed race... but passing for white. Multipass: Chantal Braganza on the awkward/painful/embarrassing/and-ok-sometimes-funny experiences of being racially ambiguous.