Stephanie Hope Georgopulos

Coming Out As Biracial

  

A few months ago, I not-so-subtly asserted myself as biracial while having dinner with a new coworker. “I’m a Capricorn,” she’d said. “Yeah…my mom’s black,” I responded (not verbatim, but the exchange was similar). Whoa. What? Immediately after I injected that part of my identity into the conversation, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. What was I doing? Did I always do this when I met new people?


The answer, if you’re wondering, is yes. (Although the timing and context are usually a bit more appropriate.) I’ve been coming out this way since I was a teenager. First, my friends would do it for me, whenever one of our peers said something racist in front of me (which was often). “Dude. Steph’s mom is black!” The requisite retort was always, “Oh, sorry, Steph. Are you half-offended?” (No, but I am wishing tired-ass jokes qualified as hate crimes.)

Here it is: My mother is black. My dad is white. Two of my siblings look like my mom, and two of us look like my dad. Of the two who favor my dad, only one is biracial — that’d be me, the pigmentally challenged Michael Jackson of our troupe. Are you confused yet? Good. Welcome to what it’s like to be biracial.


I grew up in a culturally diverse environment, which meant I missed the memo that it’s “not normal” to be mixed. In fact, I grew up believing the opposite — in my grammar school class of thirty kids, five were mixed race. Not a bad ratio.


So I didn’t discover my otherness through being teased by peers or by having after-school-special chats with my parents. I discovered it in other ways, like when strangers would mistake my mother for my nanny, would stare at a black woman holding a white child’s hand in the middle of a crowded flea market. Or when I finally figured out why Mom always stayed home whenever we visited Dad’s parents in Florida. I figured it out when I began obsessively clipping photos of Tyra Banks from my mother’s Victoria’s Secret catalogs and when I began hoarding pictures of my aunt, who I didn’t even like but thought was beautiful. I was collecting portraits of black beauty I couldn’t have for myself.


Because my exploration of race was largely internal, I spent much of my adolescence identifying as … well, whatever I wanted. Sometimes I’d simply call myself a mutt. Other times I’d list each nationality I owned, no matter how little cultural influence it had over me: Greek, Grenadian, Native American, Panamanian, Irish-Scottish (the last two were a stretch). My preferred identity, though, was one that didn’t even belong to me. In middle school, I began telling my classmates I was Hispanic. All my friends were, after all, and I quickly learned I could manipulate my hair and style to look the part. When I did this, I no longer had to explain my mother’s brown skin. I no longer had to come out.


Even with this solution in place, a certain fear lived in me. I was afraid of mispronouncing foreign words that effortlessly rolled off the tongues of friends, afraid of being invited to dinner and not knowing the Spanish words for the foods I was eating. Most of all, I was afraid my friends would talk to my parents and realize that my roots were rooted in lies. I didn’t belong anywhere, and I was ashamed of it.


At thirteen, I moved and got a chance to reevaluate my identity. My new school was predominantly black, so copping to what I was — black and white — was easy. Sometimes, anyway; other times, I was exposed to white kids who would speak their minds on our black classmates whenever they were under the impression they were in good (white) company. I realized how few people believed me about my mother’s race and wanted evidence, and how it never got less frustrating to have to prove my identity, court-of-law style (note that, on the flipside, my black classmates celebrated my race, would tell me: ”I knew you were black!”).

My mother as a teenager. She’s still just as gorgeous.


Gradually, I learned how to parse my race, make sense of it on a personal level. Even with my white skin, I didn’t know the white experience entirely. I didn’t know it because when people use that poisonous n-word, I instantly think of my mother—and how people have used that word to hurt her simply for lack of time and effort. I think about the things my parents sacrificed to be together, things bigger than letters can spell. I grew up eating collard greens and black-eyed peas and other foods white kids in New York City never ate; I grew up knowing I was the fruit of something forbidden by family, strangers, you name it. I took my spankings with a helping of, “When I was your age, my mother would just go in the backyard and get a switch from a tree — you’re lucky it’s just a belt.” When #shitblackmomssay trended on Twitter, I laughed. I was on the inside of something, for once.


That’s not to say I understand the black experience. For starters, I have white privilege. Olive skin with curly hare, fine and versatile. Police don’t see me. No one follows me around stores (but they’re confused as hell when I come in to shop with my mother and sister). No one assumes I’m uneducated or that my father left me. No one calls me her token black friend or asks why I talk so white (though I can imagine my mother, sister, and brother have heard that one a bit).


And the biracial experience? Can’t say I understand that entirely, either. Depends on what we look like, on what we’re mixed with, on how we identify. 


I love this aspect of being biracial, but it’s also what makes it alienating. My sister has had a completely different biracial experience than I’ve had. 


We share the same parents—the same blood—and our experiences are disparate. Growing up, we had different friends, different hobbies. And it wasn’t a coincidence. Biracial people are largely invisible as a group; we get tossed into whatever category we resemble most. We’re expected to choose black or white (or Indian, or Chinese, or whatever traits dominate). But lots of us don’t want to quietly “Circle One.” Some things aren’t black or white. Like human beings.


I don’t know the black experience, and I don’t know the white one either. All I know is my own biracial experience, which looks like this: it’s strangers addressing you in Greek instead of English because your name is Greek and what else would you be? (I know two words of Greek.) It’s telling a new acquaintance you’re biracial, then furnishing a photo of your family when she insists that you’re lying. You have to do this, though, show her a picture — because you might be the one person who can change her mind about what blackness looks like. It’s census reports that won’t acknowledge you, and a white friend screaming the n-word through his open window because someone cut him off in traffic. It’s that same friend turning around to say, “Oh. Sorry,” as though the problem is that you’re in the car, not his own racist inclination toward someone he’s never met.


It’s your mom’s brown face floating in a sea of white at the Greek Orthodox church, which she’ll eventually stop attending. It’s not understanding why you’re still expected to go. 


It’s befriending someone great and immediately wondering if her mom, or brother, or grandparents will say something offensive in front of you because why would you care, you’re white, right?


It’s segregated proms in 2013, sobbing over segregated proms in 2013. It’s mainstream Hollywood ignoring interracial relationships, even though one in ten Americans is in one. 


It’s Cheerios commercials and YouTube comments and knowing that somewhere, a total stranger has called your ‘kind’ “unnatural” or worse, just because your parents’ skin tones don’t match up. Who cares if they love each other? 


It’s knowing your parents’ new home state — Florida — will protect you before it protects your mother. It’s witnessing one of the most exciting conversations about race since the civil rights movement, and wondering whether you’re the white voice that should shut up and listen, or the black voice that should speak out, or the mixed voice that should ???. It’s the feeling that you belong nowhere, and not knowing what to do about that, and not knowing who to ask.


And it’s coming out. It’s coming out to strangers, and friends, and lovers on the off chance that you might convince them that race isn’t one size fits all. It’s coming out to see the look on some bigot’s face when he realizes his idea of white is wrong. 


It’s coming out so that interracial couples don’t have to fear the America their future children will grow up in. Looking like a white woman comes with white privilege, but it also comes with the responsibility of making myself known, of changing minds. I’m treated the way all black Americans deserve to be treated, and it’s only because my dad’s genes won a round of tug-of-war with my mom’s. My skin color is just a small joke that racists—career or casual—aren’t in on.


So I come out. Again and again and again. My appearance can’t do the talking, but I sure as hell can.

COLOR BLIND OR COLOR BRAVE?

Mellody Hobson Lucas, President of Ariel Investments

The subject of race can be very touchy. As finance executive Mellody Hobson says, it's a "conversational third rail." But, she says, that's exactly why we need to start talking about it. In this engaging, persuasive talk, Hobson makes the case that speaking openly about race — and particularly about diversity in hiring — makes for better businesses and a better society.  TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). 


Mellody Hobson Lucas is an American businesswoman who is the president of Ariel Investments. She is the former Chair of the Board of Directors of DreamWorks Animation, having stepped down after negotiating the acquisition of DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., by NBCUniversal in August, 2016. In 2017, she became the first African-American woman to head The Economic Club of Chicago.


COLOR BLIND OR COLOR BRAVE?

RACE AND INTERSECTIONALITY

IS BEING EDUCATED AND BLACK A CRIME TOO?

Class Consciousness 

Culture

Colorism

Wealth

Poverty

What am I missing? 


The segment on the Fresh Prince in Bel-Air illustrates a division within the black community. 


CARLTON IS CALLED A SELLOUT


THE FRESH PRINCE STRUGGLES WITH RACIAL IDENTITY, CLASS AND INTERSECTIONALITY

ANNA DEVEARE SMITH

ON BLACK LIVES MATTER, INTERSECTIONALITY AND RACE

Playwright, actress and professor Anna Deavere Smith delivers two powerful monologues, “No Music” and “Big Stick,” re-creating conversations she had with two black youngsters from inner cities.  TEDArchive presents previously unpublished talks from TED conferences. Enjoy this unedited talk by Anna Deveare Smith. Filmed at TED Talks Live in 2015. 


ON BLACK LIVES MATTER, INTERSECTIONALITY AND RACE

mixed race commercials

Advertising & Marketing: Brand Identity?

Brand identity includes brand names, logos, positioning,  brand associations, and brand personality. 


A good brand name gives a good first impression and evokes positive associations with the brand. A positioning statement tells, in one sentence, what business the company is in, what benefits it provides and why it is better than the competition. 


When Cheerios launched their 2013 campaign with  mixed race family, they struck a nerve.


A new Cheerios commercial featuring a biracial family has prompted a debate over race in America after drawing a host of ugly remarks online. 


The commercial features a biracial daughter asking her white mother if Cheerios are good for your heart, and then dumping a batch on her black father’s chest to playfully help his heart while he is sleeping on the couch. Some of the reaction was so offensive that General Mills, the maker of Cheerios, disabled the comments section on the YouTube video of the commercial. 


General Mills has announced it will not be pulling the ad due to any controversy.


“The comments that were made in our view were not family-friendly, and that was really the trigger for us, you know, to pull them off,’’ said Camille Gibson, VP marketing for General Mills, on TODAY Monday. 


Discussing the development, TODAY’s Donny Deutsch brought personal perspective to bear: Twenty years ago, the chairman of advertising agency Deutsch Inc. featured an interracial couple in an advertisement. While he applauded Cheerios’ decision to include a mixed-race couple in its commercial, he understood why some companies would shy away from it. 


“What’s unfortunate is that I still think 97 percent of companies would stay away from this because they would say, ‘I don’t need the letters.’ Which is a shame, because in reality when you do an ad like this, yes, there will be some fringe crazy people,’’ Deutsch said on TODAY Monday. “Fringe crazy people go crazy about everything, but in reality you’re making a statement about your company: ‘We’re progressive, we’re inclusive, we are about today.’ 


“Great advertising holds up a mirror to who we are and where we’re going. We see it in TV, we see it in movies, and advertising is still very late to the game. My challenge to advertisers out there – get with where the country is going.” 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people reporting that they are of two or more races reached 9 million during the 2010 U.S. census, a 32 percent increase from 2000 to 2010. There were 16 states with 200,000 or more people reporting as more than one race, including half a million or more in California, Texas and New York.


Recent law school graduate Meagan Hatcher-Mays, the daughter of a black mother and a white father, believes the Cheerios commercial represents progress. 


"I think this commercial is a really big step for interracial families,’’ Hatcher-Mays said on TODAY Monday. “The commercial represents that we exist."


Cheerios ad with mixed-race family draws racist responses.  By. Scott Stump, October 14, 2016. 


CHEERIOS ORIGINAL AD


JANET, CHRISTOPHER COLBERT'S REACTION TO THE NEGATIVE REACTION ( GRACE)


TODAY SHOW COMMENTARY


KIDS REACTION TO CONTROVERSIAL AD


TYT REPORT ON CHEERIOS AD