Mixed-race forums in the US have been having some very heated debates in the past couple of months about who has the right to call themselves mixed-race.
It started with a comment that was posted as a link to an article about the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival. The comment was about a lack of Latin@s (people who come from what is now known as Latin America and their descendants) mentioned and that with this being the largest group of multiracial people in the Americas, it was somehow wrong that they were not included.
A reply was posted that the festival was using the term 'mixed race' or 'multiracial' to refer to people who had parents of different races. There followed a very reserved exchange on somebody's Facebook wall with explanations and comments firing back and forth until it fizzled out.
The incident was discussed on another American mixed-race blog Racialicious, in a piece named: the wormiest of cans: who gets to be mixed race? Where Thea Lim used the terms MRs to refer to people who come from mixed lineage and MR2s to refer to people who have parents of two different and separate racial categorisations to illustrate the frustration she felt with the whole incident. It is sad that she had to use those terms and no doubt academics will be quoting her well into the next century as they try to divide and categorise the mixed group.
Whilst we respect that Thea was trying to make a point, the mixed-race experience cannot be divided up into categories. It is about more than where you parents are from. It is about living with more than one culture, it is about what you look like, what you social environment and experiences are. It's about so much more than lineage.
It could be said that the problems started with the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival because of the title. Almost everyone has mixed roots so why can't everyone be included? There have often been very heated debates amongst mixed-race groups as to who can claim to be mixed-race and the answer should always be everyone. Most of us came to use the term because we could not comfortably fit anywhere else so why would we now adopt the very behaviour that made us feel so uncomfortable.
Thea ended her piece by more or less coming to the same conclusion:
'Do I think that folks who come from a mixed lineage are mixed? Of course I do. Do I think that they should have the right to call themselves mixed, without qualification? Definitely. Do I believe that we are mixed in the same way? This is something I still struggle with. Do I want to be allies? Do I want to search for kinship where I never thought to look before? Do I want to have a mixed race festival and invite everyone? Yes. Yes. Yes.