Offended by Biracial?

On March 5, 2010, in Biracial, by Honeysmoke

Precious star Paula Patton, who has a black parent and a white parent, told Women’s Health she is offended by the term biracial. I am stunned by her comment. I understand she was raised at a different time, but I don’t think there is anything offensive about the term. In my mind, it is a more precise way of talking about race.

Here is the quote:  “I find [the term biracial] offensive. It’s a way for people to separate themselves from African-Americans….a way of saying ‘I’m better than that,’” says Paula, who is expecting her first son with crooner hubby Robin Thicke this spring. “I’m black because that’s the way the world sees me. People aren’t calling Barack Obama biracial. Most people think there’s a black president….People judged me because I was light-skinned. [They’d assume] I didn’t want to be part of the black race,” she says.

What do you say?

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  • Blanc2
    • http://www.honeysmoke.com Percola

      Thanks for this link.

  • Rebecca

    I can see what PP is saying, but at the same time, if I were her white parent, I would be confused, and hurt, by that comment. If her child(ren) think the same way she does, they will probably say they are white…what will she do then? I hope she teaches them to embrace ALL that they are, and not feel pressured to pick something and ignore the rest of themselves.

  • Blanc2

    The categories of “black” and “white” that we have adopted here in the US are social constructs, and they were used historically to oppress those in the “black” group. So hysterical was this that the “white” group adopted the “one drop” rule — anybody with “one drop” of “black” blood in his veins was “black.” One long-term affect of this history has been the stark racial Balkanization that exists in this country.

    This Balkanization is beginning to dissolve. One of the vectors of this change is the increasing number of racially mixed children coming up in the world, and the concomitant increasing acceptance among their peers of the idea that these children are biracial. I think that there are a lot of biracial kids these days who do not find themselves confronted by their peers with instence that they “choose” between being “black” or “white.”

    We teach our kids to embrace both parts of their heritage.

  • SpydaMama

    I would hate to think my child would have to pick one race over the other.

  • b.

    I’m glad we now live in a world where people can openly embrace all aspects of their heritage. I know my reddish-brown skin and red hair highlights aren’t a result of a 100% African ancestry, but I find it hard to appreciate my European heritage because the way it came about wasn’t positive (as far as I know — it was a few generations ago). As an adult in this day and age, I wouldn’t mind finding out more about it….not for pride but for curiosity.

    I think you are right, Percola…”she grew up at a time when children had to choose.” She also grew up in a time (as we did) when choosing meant social acceptance and not choosing meant being ostracized. For some people, claiming multiple origins other than “their” group is tantamount to siding with either: 1. the “oppressor” or 2. the “lesser-than other”. I’m SO glad this aspect of our society is changing.

  • JMS

    As a parent, I would feel incredibally hurt if my bi-racial child ever denied who she was. I make a point of exposing my child to all aspects of her heritage, and can only hope she finds a way to love all of who she is; a beautiful American, African, French, Polish, Trinidadian and German woman.
    If she one day comes to the conclusion that she is either white or black I will feel that I have failed her in some way. The term bi-racial is not a way to separate yourself, rather it is a way to embrace and celebrate all of who you are.
    However, I am not naive and I realize all too often bi-racial people are seen by society as being only one race. It is just sad to hear a bi-racial woman support that sad and confining view.

    • http://www.honeysmoke.com Percola

      The term bi-racial is not a way to separate yourself, rather it is a way to embrace and celebrate all of who you are.

      You said this so much better than I did. Thanks so much.

  • b.

    Hm…

    In some ways I can see how she comes to this conclusion. Maybe *some* people use the biracial label as a dividing line to distance themselves from their Black heritage. It’s sort of how some people used to (back in the day) make a big deal out of saying “I’ve got some Indian in my family” when discussing hair or skin tone…as though having Native American heritage made one better than someone who did not.

    However, IMO, her statement also lets me know she allows others to define her to a greater degree than necessary. Plenty of people who identify as biracial are VERY proud of ALL of their heritage. Identifying with multiple ethnic legacies does not negate the one you appear to be on the outside…it honors ALL the ancestors that culminated into your existence. At least I would hope that the label “biracial” would mean that for most people. I realize this is not always the case.

    • http://www.honeysmoke.com Percola

      I think part of the issue is that she and President Obama grew up at a time when children had to choose. Often, they identified as black because they appeared black.

  • Caymbria’s Mommy

    I think that maybe her own insecurities are interfering. I dont thin bi-racial is offensive at all. I think it embraces both (or more) races, rather than her comment about it being “a way of saying ‘I’m better than that…’”