Mixed Race Identity in 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
As with many unfounded fears, those questions played out in my head and not in reality. In fact, both the segment's producer and Tom Fudge graciously dispelled the nervousness I experienced beforehand.
But despite the reassurances, and even after the smooth on-air discussion that included a call from Assemblywoman Lori Salda & ntilde;a , D-San Diego, I found myself on the defensive. In the last week, I've replayed the years of explaining my cultural heritage and regretted the wasted breath and time in so doing. At the same time, every instance inviting a response regarding race has caught me ready for a (mini) fight.
Does being a fair skinned, mixed-race minority equate to a lifetime of defending one's cultural identification? And in 2008, with Barack Obama the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, does it even matter anymore? &
On the one hand, many people would be overjoyed to get over the stultifying markers of racial identification. These people are sick and tired of hearing about people define their entire personalities, lifestyles, and choices around something they have no control over: blood ties to history.
On the other hand, racial identity comes from making many choices along the way, choices that create reasons for celebration among those sharing and appreciating those shared experiences and traits. &
Like the stories of other mixed-race Americans, the story of racial identity is a mixture of both heritage as well as one of choice. On the heritage side of the equation, my father and his family came from Mexico to the U.S. as migrant farm workers. Then, my interracial parents raised three of their four daughters, including me, speaking both Spanish and English at home. I learned authentic northern Mexican cooking, listened to ballads and mariachi music, danced in Cinco de Mayo celebrations, and engaged in other family traditions.
My father's heritage became my own; it has been my choice to allow those experiences to affect my perspective of the world around me. &
Before Proposition 8 and the current fervent debate over same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Loving v. Virginia that banning couples based on race is unconstitutional. While my parents chose to buck the traditions of both their families by marrying each other, the country still grapples with the balance between why it matters to choose one's racial, cultural and ethnic identity. &
Does it matter that Barack Obama is mixed race? It sure does matter to the nation's identity as a country of mixed heritage in the sense that our collective ancestors were former slave owners and civil rights activists. Then again, race does not entirely weigh into the total equation. &
At least during this last week of conflicting feelings over whether my racial makeup qualified me to speak on behalf of others, I knew I wasn't alone. Like other mixed-race and racially conscious Americans, Barack Obama continues to address these issues . As previously discussed by Steven and Candace , the issue of race in America will repeatedly encourage and invite discussion. I'll be sure to withhold being on the defensive, as long as learning is the shared intention. &
- Citizen Voices blogger Alma Sove has spent most of her life in San Diego and is currently attending law school.
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