Saturday, August 15, 2015

My Response to Critics Regarding My For Harriet Article about Mixed Race Identity

On Wednesday, For Harriet published my article "What it Means to be Mixed Race During the Fight for Black Lives." It quickly took off and has received over 23,000 Facebook shares/likes by the time of this blog post. I'm extremely humbled and honored to be sharing the experiences and viewpoints of so many mixed race people. Today I took the time to read what some of the critics had to say about my article. Here is a general response to the ones that seemed the most common.

"Why is she using police brutality as a platform to discuss being mixed race?"

Response: When I wrote the article, I knew that many of my black and mixed friends were very personally upset by everything we have been witnessing on what is sometimes a daily basis. I felt that if I addressed my feelings about police brutality and racial aggression without discussing my mixed identity, some would say that my feelings weren't valid because I'm not a "real black person." I wanted to be honest about my mixed race vantage point while also doing the cleansing work of writing down my thoughts and feelings about what is weighing us all down right now.

"She thinks she's better than us by saying she has good hair."

Response: I don't personally subscribe to the notion of "good hair," which is why I put it in quotation marks. I think that when we elevate people based on Western definitions of beauty, it harms the beauty that lies within the black community. That includes black people who see mixed race people as desirable because of their Western features, and white people who see mixed race people as desirable because of their black features.

"So she only wants to claim blackness when black people are brutalized?"

Response: I claim blackness on a daily basis. If someone identifies as mixed race, it doesn't negate them also identifying as black. As simple as it may sound, a person cannot be a mix of things without being those things. I perhaps simplified it for the article as a way to express my sense of alignment with the black community in the wake of police brutality; however, I am proud to be black every day. That was something that was instilled in me both by my black father and my white mother.

"You're not mixed, you're black." / "You're not black."

Response: These were the two most common types of criticisms that I saw in the comments, and it reinforces the notion that mixed race people have to make their own identifiers. Many think that those who claim a mixed race identity are turning their back on black people, but what they don't understand is that many black people don't want to claim us because we don't look like they do. Often comments about how we "should" define is only argued after we "do" define, no matter what that definition is. I see it not as understanding or of wanting to claim this mixed race person, but rather as stating that the person doesn't have the right to claim themselves.

"Why is this important?"

Response: There's really no great way to explain this to someone who isn't biracial. The bottom line is, it isn't important at all. The only reason it becomes such a deep seeded and heated topic is because other people think it so important. If mixed race people were accepted for who they are, there wouldn't be a need to assert our identities. And like I said above, it's not a matter of what we assert but that we assert in the first place, which seems to get so many people upset.

I opened blogger to upload my video but ended up writing these responses instead! I guess I had a lot to say! For more information regarding my article and my stance, check it out below. And thanks for listening!

~Shannon Luders-Manuel


  1. I shared your article last week. I am also biracial (b /w) but grew up with my white mother and adopted white father. My biological father was absent. I grew up in the middle/upper middle class South in mainly white neighborhoods which considered me the black kid in a white family.I grew up thinking I was black, which shows how fluid racial identity is in America. I then went to college and was introduced to the concept of biracial or mixed identify. Suddenly to some I was too light, spoke in a white voice and what was most hurtful, had no right to make strong assertions about black issues. This was sort of shocking as I had endured white racism based upon their perception that I was black and had to come to terms with that racism. Then I suddenly don't belong to the group I had endured the racism for! I would love to discuss this in more detail with you! I have black and white friends, biracial Asian friends, but very few biracial. Lack people in my vicinity to talk about this. Adzhivago (at) gmail (dot) com

    1. Thank you for your comment... I can definitely relate to everything you said!

  2. Shannon-I am quite honored to hear you speak so distinctly and eloquently on the historically heated topic-I am of mixed race-Father is African American 3/4 with 1/4 Cherokee Indian-and from Oklahoma-Boley-a historically 'Black' town; Mother is from England-100 % British. I have always considered myself of 'mixed heritage' and claim this until I leave the earth. I have never had a conflict within myself because I have always been true to who I am and have come in to agreement with myself that I of mixed Heritage; as a young girl and woman growing up in the Bay Area, I have experienced the most hurtful responses from people who do not understand the journey of a mixed race person. I have had to overlook comments, overlook attitudes, overlook being skipped over for church related functions because I wasn't either black enough or white enough-there are several people to are too insecure about who they are that a mixed raced person becomes a threat to their self identity. The best way many people deal with the threat is by belittling and dismissing the mixed heritage person in order to validate their importance as a 'white' person or a 'black' person. I have experienced being left out of relationships at work especially, when the black person and the white person decide to come together-and intentionally try and minimize my contribution to the work environment. I have looked within myself to see if I am projecting my own insecurities-and I have come up with the conclusion that many white and black co-workers feel threatened that their cultural identity does not hold the degree of importance politically as much as they were brain washed in to believing. As a result of my own stance on embracing my mixed heritage, I have come in to my own strength as a mixed race woman and I sense some black and white raced people do not feel comfortable with allowing me to feel whole and complete as I feel that I am. The way I deal with this scenario-I exude a gentle character with compassion and concern for my fellow colleagues, and I continue to remember that I am teaching others what it means to be of mixed heritage=there is an understanding and responsibility we have as mixed race people to show the world the unity, love, togetherness and power that come from a mixed raced person embracing everything they are -and the power that comes out of the harmony within--it is an example of what we can accomplish together when races stop fighting for rights and start fighting for the human race together-there is a much bigger fight we need to set our sights on. God is Good