The Humanity of Hybridity

I cannot sanitize history.

Especially when it comes to the history of mixed ethnicity in the United States (U.S.), which I am certain (fairly) began long before Thomas Jefferson repeatedly sexually assaulted his multiethnic slave, Sally Hemmings, leading to her bearing six of his children.  Thomas Jefferson, a writer, never wrote about Ms. Hemmings, but did argue against the mixing of the races.  It is ironic that one such mixed race product, Barack Obama, became president of the U.S., and another such mixed race product, Meghan Markle, is about to become part of the royal family of Britain when she marries Prince Harry in May 2018.

photo quarters of sally hemmings 2018-01-23 jpeg1

Having grown up in an area where there was a lot of behind-the-scenes mixing of the races in romantic liaisons of one kind of another, but a lot of racist, anti-Black dogma practiced in public, I was astounded that the U.S. would elect President Obama or that Britain’s royal family would not be up in arms about one of their members marrying a woman of African descent.  (When I was in high school, if White students were seen walking the halls with an African Americanx student, White teachers would call their parents to report this “indecent” activity as if it were a public health hazard.)

When I read articles in the British press about Prince Harry’s upcoming nuptials, I frequently see the term “biracial.”  I do not see the terms “half Black” or “of African descent,” although I read an account of her mother being “visibly Black.”  This was said with regard to Markle’s White half-sister, “When asked if her bi-racial sister is conscious about the weight of ‘a different ethnicity coming into the royal family’ and her future children” she stated, “‘I can’t really speak to that. She may or may not be. She is definitely confident not only in herself as a woman but in her relationship with Prince Harry and love that they have. So I think that should speak for and carry them and everything else. And that being said it almost seems a non-issue.’”2

photo megan markle 2018-01-23 jpeg3

Believing that race or ethnicity can ever be a non-issue is a luxury that I do not have.  Yes, I am confident in myself as a human being, woman, daughter, mother, artist, and teacher; and I am confident in the love that I share with my family and husband (who is White and a native of England), however, I do not believe that the “weight of a different ethnicity,” especially with regard to Britain’s royal family, will not be felt.  Clearly, the media already sees it as having heft and consequence or the word “weight” would not have been employed.

The love aside, the fact that a biracial person of African descent is marrying into Britain’s royal family and that a biracial person of African descent was President of the United States of America are important milestones in the cultivation of harmony among the races, at least in the Western world.  Having experienced a great deal of disharmony among the races when I was growing up in Kansas, these moments arrive with surprise and pleasure.  I welcome the evolution, although I know that there are many who do not.  In Kansas, I had the distinct joy of witnessing the outcomes of a variety of ethnic, African-descent blends, such as German and Black, Italian and Black, French and Black, Austrian and Black, Filipino and Black, Korean and Black, Japanese and Black, Vietnamese and Black, Thai and Black, and others.  The Afro-European offspring were beautiful to behold and represented the bridging of two distinct races that theretofore had been embroiled in a rather messy nexus of sociopolitical links.

In U.S. society today, there are also a lot of Afro-European unions including marriages.  A key one is the marriage of Star Wars creator George Lucas and Melody Hobson, Chair of the Board of Directors of DreamWorks Animation.  Their biracial daughter, Everest, is Lucas’ only biological child.

photo george lucas and melody hobson 2018-01-23 jpeg4

Software mogul of Norton Virus, Peter Norton, is pictured here with his wife, Gwen Adams, who is a Black Caribbean Islander.  His first wife, Eileen Norton, was African American; and they share two biracial offspring.

photo peter norton and gwen adams 2018-01-23 jpeg5

Tennis star Serena Williams now is married to Alexis Ohanian, founder of Reddit.  They are new parents to a biracial daughter.

photo serena williams and alexis ohanian 2018-01-23 jpeg6

Stone Philips, a U.S. television reporter and former co-anchor of Dateline, is married to artist Debra Phillips.  They have one biracial biological child.

photo stone philips and debra philips 2018-01-23 jpeg7

There are many couples that include one Asian or Asian American partner and one Black partner, such as Billy Dee Williams and his wife Teruko Nakagami Williams, Wesley Snipes and Nakyung Park, Terrence Howard and Mira Cristine Pak, and Pelé and Marcia Aoki; and other interracial couples such as the British writer Ruth Prawer Jhabwala (Merchant-Ivory collaborator) and her Indian architect Cyrus Jhabwala, now both deceased; and President George W. Bush’s son Jeb Bush and his Latina wife Columba Bush.

Interracial coupling is no longer a rarity or something to be relegated to a dank, brick room while one rails in public against the mixing of the races.

According to a Pew Research Center study, “Of the 3.6 million adults who got married in 2013, 58% of American Indians, 28% of Asians, 19% of blacks and 7% of whites have a spouse whose race was different from their own.”7  More than one-third of Asian American women marry people who are not Asian American.  Attitudes toward interracial marriage, while shifting more slowly, are also trending downwards.  Just four years ago, only “9%… said this trend was a bad thing for society, and 51% said it doesn’t make much difference.”8

While Latinx peoples are the fastest growing population in California, Asian Americanx peoples are the fastest growing population in the U.S., with the fastest growing section within that group being multiethnic Asian Americans.

My family has been mixing races for generations, especially on the U.S. side of the equation.  My perspective is multiethnic and multicultural.  I embrace people of a multitude of cultural backgrounds because it is in my DNA to do so.  Given this, I think sadly on the sexual assault of African American slave women that led to miscegenation among the Black population of the U.S.  Today we have come to a new place in ethnic relations, a time in which people from different ethnic backgrounds come together out of choice, love, and ethical courage.  My family includes numerous ethnic heritages – Japanese, Black, Native American Indian, Cuban, Chinese, Vietnamese, English, German, Scottish, Canadian, Argentinian, and many more.  These threads enrich us all.  Certainly, they have educated and continue to educate me.  For this I am thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

[1] Danielle, Britni.  “Sally Hemings wasn’t Thomas Jefferson’s mistress. She was his property.”  The Washington Post.  Web.  www.washingtonpost.com.  Retrieved on December 28, 2017 @ https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/sally-hemings-wasnt-thomas-jeffersons-mistress-she-was-his-property/2017/07/06/db5844d4-625d-11e7-8adc-fea80e32bf47_story.html?utm_term=.9934ad749d86.)

[2] Griffiths, Emmy.  “Meghan Markle’s half-sister Samantha Grant denies falling out with star.” Hello.  Web.  www.hellomagazine.com.  Retrieved on December 28, 2017 @ https://us.hellomagazine.com/celebrities/2017102343389/meghan-markle-half-sister-samantha-grant/.

[3] Joshi, Priya.  “Meghan Markle couldn’t afford to fix her car before hitting the big time in Hollywood.”  IB Times.  Web.  www.ibtimes.co.uk.  Retrieved on December 28, 2017 @

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/meghan-markle-couldnt-afford-fix-her-car-before-hitting-big-time-hollywood-1608281.

[4] “George Lucas, Wife Donate $25 Million To Chicago Private School.”  CBS.  Web.  www.sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com.  Retrieved on Decmeber 28, 2017 @ http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/02/25/george-lucas-wife-donate-25-million-to-chicago-private-school/.

[5] “Peter Norton and Gwen Adams.” Web.  www.justlikemecouples.blogspot.com.  Retrieved on January 23, 2018 from http://justlikemecouples.blogspot.com/2009/03/peter-norton-and-gwen-adams.html.

[6] Adejobi, Alicia.  “Serena Williams’ fiance Alexis Ohanian has a ‘hunch’ on the gender of their baby,” A*List, Aug 2, 2017.  Web.  www.ibtimes.co.uk.  Retrieved on January 23, 2018 from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/serena-williams-fiance-alexis-ohanian-has-hunch-gender-their-baby-1633215.

[7] 8th Annual JED Foundation Gala.  Zimbio.  Web.  www.zimbio.com.  Retrieved on December 28, 2017 @ http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/0qdW4H8UDaD/8th+Annual+Jed+Foundation+Gala/3uivtvSUSzZ/Stone+Phillips.

[8] Wang, Wendy.  “Interracial marriage: Who is ‘marrying out’?,” Pew Research Center, June 12, 2015.  Web.  www.pewresearch.org.  Retrieved on December 28, 2017 @ http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/12/interracial-marriage-who-is-marrying-out/.

[9] Wang, Wendy.  “Interracial marriage: Who is ‘marrying out’?,” Pew Research Center, June 12, 2015.  Web.  www.pewresearch.org.  Retrieved on December 28, 2017 @ http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/06/12/interracial-marriage-who-is-marrying-out/.

 

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