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There are a whole lot more interracial families in the real world than television and movies would have us believe. Many of you probably know this because you are part of one, or you know one, or you just have a general sense that what you see onscreen isn’t always an accurate reflection of reality. The lack of interracial visibility has a ton of causes, but one unfortunate effect is that people who enjoy keeping their heads in the sand are encouraged to do so. Another effect is that people like me often end up feeling marginalized, as if we and our families are some sort of shameful national secret.

During the past decade or so, I have begun to see interracial families and mixed race people pop up more and more, but it’s still a rarity in the mainstream media — DESPITE THE FACT THAT OUR FIRST FAMILY IS INTERRACIAL — oh, the irony. To make matters worse, we are represented in carefully chosen, stereotypical ways — for instance you’ll see a black man with a white woman a lot more often than a white man with a black woman. And many times, directors choose light-skinned or clearly biracial people to fill “black” roles. (Oh look, it’s Halle Berry again!) Yes, a biracial partner still makes the couple interracial, but then… we always do. (I like to say I’m in an interracial relationship with myself.) You might see an interracial queer family more often than a straight one, but how often do you see queer families at all? Ok, sometimes you’ll see an actual, semi-realistic interracial couple, but that’s usually code for, “This Is Going To Be Totally About Race.”

The pattern feeds almost exclusively on stereotypes and is artfully arranged to support this whole complex, post-racist system, where people are encouraged to keep their racism to themselves (in public) and pretend that we’re all equal. Until…. dun, dun, dunnnnnnnnn… CHEERIOS.

Yes, something as innocuous as a Cheerios commercial has brought to light a level of ignorance that makes my head spin more than Small Wonder. Let me break it down for you:

1 . Cheerios commercial airs on national television, featuring a white woman, a black man, and a biracial girl who are all… ready for this… related to each other! In fact, they’re a typical little American family where the mom sits at the kitchen table making, you know, womanly notes, the dad takes naps on the sofa and the kid runs around causing a ruckus.

2. Concerned cereal lovers take to the Internets to let it be known that they refuse to be subjected to real life. They inundate Cheerios’ YouTube and facebook pages with so much racist vitriol that General Mills disables comments.

3. Atlanta couple Michael David Murphy and Alyson West see all this, and decide to start the tumblr project We Are The 15 Percent, a collection of crowd-sourced portraits of interracial families like themselves. They draw the site name from census data showing that 15% of new marriages are interracial.

4. I send in a photo for inclusion on We Are The 15 Percent and they post it. The Daily News runs an article on the project the same day which happens to feature me and my wife’s picture. And the awesome Melissa Harris-Perry (also featured on the site) runs a segment, as do a bunch of other venues which you can see here.

REAL LIFE INTERRACIAL FAMILY: Michael Murray and Alyson West – creators of We Are The 15 Percent – with their daughter, Alexandra.

So, check out the project and send in a photo! Mixed race people and families lend an important and much needed perspective to the conversation, and it’s up to us to make sure we are seen and heard. Thanks to Michael and Alyson for contributing in such a simple and beautiful way.

Only Black Kid

Story of my life!

Here I am at Sunny Acres Day Camp outside of Albany, NY in 1980. I’m not sure how much I noticed, or minded, being the only kid of color in so many situations for so much of my childhood, but I didn’t really vocalize my feelings about it until years later. Looking back at pictures like this one though, I wonder what impact it had on me in the moment. Did it affect my personality? My confidence? My comfort? Were the camp counselors ever tempted to call in the authorities on suspicion of kidnapping when my white mom came to pick me up (as happened to this Virginia family recently)?

camp

Of course, my use of the term “only black kid” is, on the surface, in contrast to my usual “I’m mixed, not black” perspective. It’s true, I normally rant about how mixed is not the same as black, and have used a whole heap of web space exploring all the ways my experience is unique. But there is overlap too. It’s obvious that “black” is the way us mixed kids are often seen, and in turn the way we sometimes see ourselves. Regardless of how I understood race at the time (probably something like, Race? Ready, set, go!), here I am – the only caramel-skinned camper who didn’t owe it to a tan. It was a situation typical of my life as a child.

Ok, now you’re it!

Was this the story of your life too? If so, send me a picture of you as the only black kid to newmeadow@gmail.com or tweet me at @newmeadow #onlyblackkid and I’ll post it here! Please tell me your name and the city/state/country where the picture was taken. If you’d like, you can also include a brief paragraph describing your memories regarding the picture, or your general feelings about being the “only black kid.” I think these photos are really meaningful in remembering, and relating, what it’s like to be a kid of color.

Register This

In case you haven’t heard, it’s been two months since my girlfriend proposed to me and just one month since I proposed to her. We’ve already settled into engaged life, chosen a wedding date, a venue, a caterer and someone to marry us. It’s amazing what two underemployed lesbians can do with google, an excel chart and two Macs. We even started a couple of wedding registries because apparently when you get hitched, people want to give you stuff. I’m not arguing.

So last night my now fiancée and I stopped by Crate and Barrel to check out some items for our registry in person. It wasn’t until we left that we took a closer look at the brochure and noticed something that caused us to shake our heads vigorously, make strange wounded animal noises and question whether we wanted to register there at all.

Ok, first of all their brochure is filled with images of nothing but young, skinny, straight, heterosexual hipsters. Fine. Not a shocker. But on top of that, each pair of models — I mean, engaged couple — matched each other exactly in skin color and (perceived) ethnicity. A perfectly trendy Asian couple stood hand-in-hand amidst the bedding items. A guy with a goatee and a Fedora wrapped his arm around a dark-haired beauty between potholders and dishcloths. An olive-skinned pair was caught mid-romantic moment in the decor section and a medium brown couple grinned from ear to ear between pasta cookers and double boilers.

This last couple irked me the most because I am so sick of seeing mixed race people clearly used to satisfy the black quota in advertising. I think we all know that if a person’s skin resembles a cup of coffee with about twenty tablespoons of cream, and that person is not an albino, they are probably not one hundred percent black. So if you’re gonna go this tired route, why not throw a couple of espresso-skinned people in there? What are you trying to say, Crate and Barrel? Black people don’t get married? You don’t think their families can afford your sixteen dollar water pitchers?

The best — I mean, worst — part of the whole thing was the cover. In an astounding nod to conventional, mainstream, imperialist, commercial conformity, they slapped a preppy, white couple on the front page. But they decided that it was ok for white couples to have different hair colors, as long as the girl was blonde.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that C&B had a few meetings about how to make money off — I mean, appeal to — every race, color and ethnicity in their registry pamphlet. I just can’t believe THIS is what they came up with. Last time I checked interracial marriage was legal, and not that uncommon. And news alert, same sex marriage is now a thing.

When we realized the extent of the distance between C&B’s worldview and ours, we decided that we couldn’t ask our family and friends to spend their money there, nor did we want those artisanal, robin’s egg blue, hand-antiqued plates that badly. No matter how well they matched each other, they didn’t match us.

We are aware that almost every gigantic, national chain store is more interested in profits than people, but here’s a clue: try to fake it. And if your ads look anything like this: try harder.

Double Chai

Dear awesome, conscious, inquisitive, diverse, and thoughtful readers,

First of all, you look great today. Really. Are you doing something new with your hair? Maybe it’s just the early spring light, but there’s a glow about you this morning. Whatever you’re doing, keep it up.

Secondly, I have a surprise for you. I’m turning 36 today! Ok, I guess it’s not really a surprise, but it feels that way to me since just a few years ago I was heading out to a hot night at the bowling alley looking like this:

 
Also, it’s surprising because as a kid, I kind of pictured it all differently.

Here are some of the things I thought I’d be doing when I was 36:

  • Living next door to my best friend and sharing a backyard with our tall, gorgeous husbands and children
  • Dropping my 6 year old son Shane and 8 year old daughter Rosa off at school (Shane? Really?)
  • Pounding a gavel and demanding order in my courtroom
  • Wrapping wounds in the ER where news of my skill and grace would travel far and wide making me a world famous nurse (my mother said this was possible because of Florence Nightingale so it was a dream I held onto for many years)
  • Teaching social studies to calm and attentive students
  • Fronting a famous all girl rock band on vocals and guitar
Even though most of these dreams haven’t manifested in their precisely imagined forms, I’m still the feeling special meaning of this year.

WARNING: you might want to sit down and slap on your yarmulke ’cause i’m about to get Jewish on you. 


(no, not THAT jewish.)

You’ve probably heard the Hebrew phrase l’chaim, meaning to life.  It’s often used as a toast. Well, the root word, chai, is made up of the letters het and yod.  And since Hebrew letters are also numbers, every word has a numerical equivalent (based on ancient gematria and mystical numerology).  In simple terms, chai = 18… and 18 = life!

Because of its lucky number status, monetary gifts are often given in multiples of 18. I remember my short stint as a tele-fundraiser for United Jewish Appeal. The handbook directed me to ask for a thousand dollars, then five hundred, on down to a hundred, and if they still wouldn’t give in, I was supposed to hit them with, “How about 54 dollars? That would be triple chai! That would be great!”  Our calls were monitored and if the word chai wasn’t delivered with the authentic phlem clearing inflection, we were in trouble. I lasted one afternoon. Not because I couldn’t pronounce chai, but because I couldn’t bear cold calling people and reading to them from a script. The UJA has never recovered from my absence and this is why we see continued unrest in the middle east today.

Anyway, you may have gathered that the number 36 is 2×18, which makes it double chai. And double chai is extra special because it equals two lives!

Now, I don’t believe in a god who invented us, spies on us, and adds us to the guest list at Club Heaven if we’ve been good. But I do believe that the natural order of things is beautiful and that it can be found in an oil painting, the smile of a stranger, the smell of a sweet potato in the oven or an algebraic equation. I figure if god is anywhere, she’s in the numbers.

Thanks for all your support and I hope you’ll keep reading. In the meantime, if you haven’t subscribed to receive my new posts by email, do it now by clicking the subscribe link on the upper right! If you already have, pass it on to a friend, or 36. Consider it my birthday gift.

L’chaim!

Meadow

Mixed Race Friend

I’m sorry I haven’t posted lately. I’ve been busy renting myself out as a mixed race friend. I’m working on an exciting new piece, but I can’t share it here because I’m hoping to get it published. You know, by a person whose name isn’t Meadow Braun. Stay tuned. And if you’re in need of a mixed race friend, I’m available weekday afternoons.

As I discussed in my very first blog post, the U.S. Census now allows respondents to check more than one box when reporting their race. Inclusive as it is, that tactic can only go so far. What if a Hawaiian-Nigerian-Swede has a child with a French-Canadian-Jew? Which boxes will their daughter check? And what if that young girl grows up to fall in love and have twins with an adopted Chinese-Indonesian-Pakistani raised by WASPs? What boxes will those adorable little WASPy-Nigerian-Swedish-French-Canadian-Jewish-Chinese-Indonesian-Pakistani identical twins check?

The only way to accurately gather racial data from U.S. citizens will be to move to a more color/culture-based, self-identification system. In this new collection system (a draft of which Obama has been kind enough to share with all certified biracial Americans), each person will be identified by a unique polygram. That shape, along with their lip measurement, will be utilized by the government to determine how to best address the economic, social and educational needs of our nation.

A sneak peak is below. Please let me know your thoughts in the comment section. I’ll be sure to pass them along to the committee.

Click for a larger version:

Like many of you, I have enjoyed watching the recent Shit Girls Say video and the videos that it inspired. When Shit White Girls Say To Black Girls took the meme in a racial direction, I knew it was time to add my two cents.

My college friend, actress Linnea Peery, also wanted to make a video that explored the things that are said to people like us — young women whose appearance evokes statements of curiosity and confusion, from the ignorant to the derogatory. So we took a few of the items from my June 2011 blog post and expanded on them in order to expose some of the irony that reveals itself when they are heard back to back. I hoped that our video would offer mixed girls a sense of community and give viewers a chance to see things from our perspective.

Making the video also got me thinking… what makes these little movies so funny? While hearing one remark individually can be upsetting, there is something inherently humorous about placing a whole bunch of them one after the other. Their impact is exaggerated for comic effect, but it also touches on the reality for those of us who field these comments and questions throughout our lives.

What people say reflects how they feel. And how they feel reflects the society and culture they live in. By shining a light on the things that people say across city and state, time and place, Shit People Say videos help clarify the beliefs, attitudes and structures on which so many of our interactions are based. By themselves, these remarks can be dismissed as innocent or harmless, but all together they highlight the bonds and divisions between us and reveal broader truths.

Ultimately, these videos can lead to discussion and greater understanding. Maybe even change. Or maybe just a good deal of water being spit out of people’s mouths.

Please view, comment, like and share!

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