Today's post is from Ariel, a multiracial student at Stonehill:
Mixed race literature is a genre by authors and about individuals who identify as being mixed-race. This ranges from Native-European, African-European, Native-African American, and other multiracial identities. I feel as if the majority of these writers collectively dread the idea of being limited to only one category or genre of literature because some might think they are responsible for multiple identities. Lately I’ve been reading works by contemporary Native American authors who are challenging their audiences to view topics of mixed- blood individuals as a subsection of Native literature rather than a collection of works which “question the authority” of Native American identity. What I’ve also noticed is both Native Americans and African Americans are similar in the sense that their histories are plagued by the paradigm of the colonizer versus the colonized.
Thomas King’s You’re Not the Indian I had in Mind is an essay which analyzes the complexities of Native American identity. King, who is of Cherokee and Greek decent, attempts to lightly address the subject of how his culture’s identity is essentially shaped by the perceptions of white America,
“Of course, outside grant selection committees and possibly grants at the new and improved U.S. border crossings, not many people ask these questions. They don’t have to. They’re content simply looking at you. If you don’t look Indian, you aren’t. If you don’t look White, you’re not” (King, 56).
Native American mixed bloods do not have such a place “in between” like the tragic mulattos in African American literature who belong in neither the White nor Black world yet rather their own category. You are either a part of the White man’s world or the Native one, there is no happy medium and do not have the luxury to choose or float among the two worlds.
Zora Neale Hurston, a mixed race African American who claimed that she “neither considered it an honor or a shame” to being multiracial. That always surprised me that Hurston felt that way because from the books that I’ve read by her she continuously, whether its subconscious or not, discusses the dilemmas of those who are mixed. Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel regarding the life of an African American woman striving to gain a grasp on her identity while living up to her expectations as a young woman in the early twentieth century. Janie Crawford discusses the complexities of love, feminism, and a search for independence. Her individual quest for liberty is closely linked to her internal struggles regarding her restrictions to race. The basis for this book is a series of reflections by Janie where she is attempting to recount certain memories from her past to her friend Pheoby. In one particular recollection she describes an event from her childhood where she first noticed that she was different from her peers,
“So when we looked at de picture and everybody got pointed out there wasn’t nobody left except a real dark little girl with long hair standing by Eleanor. Dat’s where Ah wuz s’posed to be, but Ah couldn’t recognize dat dark chile as me. So Ah ast, ‘where is me? Ah don’t see me’
Janies’ mother, like so many other black women before her, fell victim to the sexual control of a white man. Therefore Janie Crawford is of mixed race yet she has never consciously thought of herself to be that way since she has been raises among white people. Thus to her disappointment she learns that the little dark girl that the other children were making fun of in the picture is in fact herself and her only defense is her exclaim in dismay that, “’Aw, aw! Ah’m colored!’” (Hurston, 9).
The one thing that always resonates after reading or listening to stories such as theses is the bittersweet reality and realization of what it truly means to be multiracial: an endless personal journey of self discovery which originates with one complex crisis and develops into a series of intricate questions. Not only who am I but where, what and who did I come from.