Empire’s mid-season finale did not come and go without controversy.
The always contentious Charlemagne Tha God went hard on Alicia Keys’ character “Skye” during a cameo on the series for concerning herself with Black Lives after years of identifying as biracial, and Jamal’s defense of Skye was the pop culture moment I’ve been waiting on for weeks. He asked C Tha God why Skye has to pick a side when it comes to her race, and dismissed the idea that people have to be labeled.
As a biracial person of color, I’d like to state that for the record, identifying as Biracial is about as anti-Black as claiming that Black Lives Matter is anti-white. The idea of being honest about your background as a negative has been troublesome to me for as long as I can remember. I was disappointed recently after Taye Diggs garnered criticism that he wants his children to identify as biracial.
The truth is, biracial people exist, and how we choose to identify shouldn’t be on trial.
Often, the experiences of mixed-raced individuals differ from the traditional Black, white or other full experience. Acknowledging these differences doesn’t take away from our ability to discern where we fit on the cultural spectrum, and it certainly doesn’t imply any disdain for our Black heritage. As a matter of fact, many of us prefer that side, especially around the holidays, (nothing compares to the thanksgiving cooking and turn up).
Mixed-raced individuals are often forced to disclose our ethnic makeup because of the many questions that we receive from people around us.
“What are you mixed with?”
“I like your complexion.”
“Why do you talk like that.”
“Do you mind me asking… what are you?”
These types of questions are the conversational equivalent to touching a Black woman’s hair. The truth is, our racial makeup matters more to everyone else than it does to us. We consider ourselves to be just as Black, (often more), as we do anything else we are mixed with, without shame.
Biracial people are often starkly aware of the ways in which people attempt to offer up some kind of sick privilege due to our “not being fully Black” makeup. However, when has being something you’re not ever solved anything? I’m not going to lie about my ethnicity because somebody asked what I was mixed with and now wants to make “light-skinned babies.” Me allowing a white racist entice me out of my heritage by trying to suggest that I’m really “one of them” and not like “other Black people” using coded language (yes, this really happens), is also out of the question. We shouldn’t have to worry about people looking at us funny for being honest and cutting through those assumptions. We don’t think we are special, and are often more insecure than somebody who isn’t mixed with any other race because many of us struggle with issues of identity at a young age.
Biracial people are innately aware of the LSLH (light skin-long hair) phenomenon. As biracial women, there is a privilege that comes with being light skinned with long hair. Identifying as mixed doesn’t mean we aren’t aware of this. Many of us are just as disgusted by the Nina Simone casting as anyone, and would never have taken that role given our backgrounds. We want to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
In reality, individuals of mixed race are just like everyone else. Our stories are not always traditional, and our upbringing can often be complex and varied. What we choose to call ourselves ain’t nobody’s business. Try walking in our shoes instead of policing us for privileges many of us vehemently reject. Just because we are honest about our heritage, doesn’t mean we don’t fight for equality in ways other than lying about who we are racially.
By being real about our origin, we are able to celebrate our uniqueness, and this should not be threatening. Some people of mixed background can pass for one side or the other, while others have a more obvious blended ethnicity. We should be able to choose what we tell people about ourselves guilt-free. Being biracial is a sub segment of Black culture; we’re still part of the culture. Kudos to Empire for giving this subject the positive attention it deserves.
Elizabeth Aguirre is a technology professional with over 8 years experience working in the software industry.Currently Elizabeth is pursuing an M.S. in E-commerce at DePaul University and works as a consultant for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing in Chicago. She is on a one woman mission to empower small business owners through the use of technology.When she is not being a “cool mom” to her daughter Esther, she enjoys working on her personal web page, the Chitown Reikologist.