Wednesday, July 9, 2008

New Feature: Ask "Mixed Race America"

About a week ago, my friend "T" was talking to me on the phone and asked if I knew of a resource on the internet where you could ask a question about race. She had been to various blogs (including this one) but felt a bit shy just asking a question out of the blue. So I decided, with "T's" permission, to start a feature that I'm calling

"Ask Mixed Race America"

Here's the catch, though: I'd like YOU, dear readers, to be the respondents, not me.

Lets face it: I'm no expert. I mean, I may have some expertise in my academic field (in particular since I'm immersed in all texts related to the Japanese American Internment/Incarceration I could probably whip out some facts and figures for you and/or breakdown some analyses for you that you may not have known or ever thought about) but in terms of talking about race in America, about mixed-race issues in America? I'm about as expert as the next person (OK, maybe I'm being a *bit* on the humble side--because I do teach courses on race and American culture, so I have done a fair amount of thinking and teaching and listening about this subject).

At any rate, "T" can always get my opinion, but what she can't get is YOURS, so here is her question:

"I did a blog search on single moms, and came across a few sites authored by various women, and the ones I find most inspiring are written by African American moms. I find myself making judgments about African American single moms. They are strong. They're resilient. They are proud and focused on themselves and what's important and don't let the fathers of their children get them down as much as others do. I know these are my judgments,and they're not based on a thorough search or reading of single parenting blogs,but for whatever reason, I find what they have to say more inspiring than non-African American moms. There's a part of me that recognizes that there are more single parents of African American decent than other races, and that feels like they approach it more from a perspective of empowerment and strength than from a victim's
perspective. I feel whiny, in comparison. I read other blogs that feel whiny, too.

So is this racism or judgment? And I believe it's harmful to have these judgments. Is it? Because I know there are African American moms that are victimy and who struggle outwardly and inwardly, and they don't have it all figured out. They probably don't want me coming along saying, "Oh, your ethnic group has this single parenting thing down, don't you?" I am sure to offend someone with beliefs like that. But if I am looking for examples of strength in single parenting, I find it within that community more easily than in others."

I don't want to give away too much about "T's" personal circumstances, but for clarification, "T" has two young children and identifies as mixed-race (specifically Filipino, Japanese, and white).

If you would like to share your opinion with "T," feel free to leave it in the comment box--but as with all comments on this blog, please try to be respectful while also speaking your truth. Resources are always helpful/appreciated. And if you, yourself, have a question you'd like to see posted for the readers of "Mixed Race America" feel free to write to me at

[P.S. Today is "T's" birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!]

1 comment:

CVT said...

I like this idea, and happy birthday, "T."

Anyway, my response to this one is that it is, indeed, a stereotype, which could cause a bit of problem. First of all, bloggers are a very specific sub-set of people - as only certain characteristics make somebody likely to (and able to) blog: regular computer and internet access, an interest in writing, need for public self-expression (and then a whole slew of random other traits that drives certain people to blog).

So - extrapolating an idea of "strength" to a race from a limited sub-set is dangerous.

The other danger is the reinforcement of the generalized stereotype that "all black women are strong" which has caused all sorts of problems in the black community. Namely (as I was just reading) the severe underreporting of mental health issues (depression, anxiety, etc.) by black women. This is a stereotype that makes it more difficult for black women to feel "okay" asking for help and/or showing moments of weakness. It also has the tendency to support leaps to stereotypes of black women being more "masculine" and the like.

So - it's nothing you want to go over-the-top in feeding. Again, even positive stereotypes can be an issue.

That said, there's nothing wrong in admiring these specific black women whose blogs you find inspiring. I think you should celebrate their "non-whininess" in an (apparently) whiny blog world. Just be careful to not broaden that appreciation into a wider racial stereotype (even if "positive").

Hope that helps at all. And keep asking questions.