Can Mixed People Celebrate Black History Month?
Uncovering the rules around Black History Month.
I casually picked up my phone and tapped on the Instagram icon. My thumb swiped up as my eyes scanned pictures and reels depicting everything from the best must-have hair products, book reviews, and dream vacation destinations to inspirational quotes, Bible verses, and hot takes on social issues.
I follow several accounts that cover topics from a Mixed perspective which is where I found this gem. Dr. Jennifer Noble, PhD. is a phycologist and family coach who specializes in helping Mixed Race and interracial families. Yeah, I’m not out here following people who just want to spout their opinions. I’m here to continue learning and growing too, and her account is one of my favorites (you should give it a follow - @drjennpsych).
Anyways, Dr. Jenn isn’t afraid to tackle controversial topics, so it didn’t surprise me when I saw this on her feed. Then I saw it shared by almost every other account I follow. So what’s the big deal?
Let’s Start at the Beginning…
Maybe you don’t see why this is controversial. I get it because I’ve been there too.
So let’s start with the language.
What does biracial mean? Biracial is the term used to describe someone who comes from two different ethnic backgrounds (ie: Mexican mom + Black father = biracial child).
Side note: A person doesn’t have to be Black to be biracial or Mixed. It simply means there are two different ethnic backgrounds that comprise one’s DNA. It can be any number of combinations, but for the sake of this article, we’re going to use the Black/White narrative.
So essentially the person who wrote the original tweet was saying if you’re only half ethnically and genetically Black, you shouldn’t celebrate Black History Month.
Well now, my little antennas went up cause that just didn’t seem quite right.
In fact, it seemed contradictory to the purpose of Black History Month which is “to honor and celebrate the achievements of African Americans who have made transformational impacts on American history.” Karriel Augustin
But I Identify as Black! What About Me?
My antennas perked up because many people who are ethnically and genetically mixed identify as only Black. They do this for several reasons - rejection from family, social constructs like racial identity boxes on forms, and historical restrictions like the One Drop Rule and the Brown Bag Rule are just a few. (we’ll explore the reasons in a future article).
But according to the author, it doesn’t matter if you identify as Black. If both parents aren’t Black, then unfortunately, you’re just not Black enough to engage in the celebration.
This ideology continues to feed the harmful tension Mixed Race people have lived between their entire lives: never being enough to belong.
So Who Can Celebrate Black History Month?
According to the purpose of Black History Month, as stated above, anyone should be “allowed” to celebrate and honor the achievements of African Americans. And while we highlight them during February, all of us, including biracial and mixed individuals, can continue to learn and acknowledge their impact throughout the year.
BUT…History is Changing!
The mix of emotions (did you see what I did there) I felt as I read over the post, Dr. Jenn’s caption, and through some of the 385 comments reminded me why this work is so important. One after another people shared comments resisting the author’s opinion, lamenting that so many still embrace these ideologies, sharing their own painful experiences, and encouraging change.
A few years ago, this post wouldn’t have moved me.
But history is changing. Society is changing. We are changing. I am changing.
Say What? I Didn’t Know They Were Mixed!
A few days after this post, Dr. Jenn created a follow-up video where she shared 5 People in Black History Who Are Also Mixed Race. It got me thinking, which in turn led me to Google. I was surprised to discover so many people we know, honor and celebrate during Black History month are actually Mixed. Here are a few that might surprise you.
Booker T Washington - Black mother / White father
Fredrick Douglas - Black mother / White father
Langston Hughes - Biracial mother / Biracial father
Kamala Harris - South Indian mother / Jamacian-American father
Barack Obama - White mother / Kenyan father
Misty Copeland - Biracial mother / Biracial father
Friend, do you struggle to accept your unique blend? I know it’s indescribably hard to see yourself as anything other than the words that have been spoken over you. I am learning to see myself through Jesus’ eyes, to embrace the totality of His creation in me. I am not just one ethnicity. According to Ancestry DNA, I’m comprised of a beautiful mosaic that touches almost every continent! Seriously, how cool is that! Whether you’re Mixed or not, you too are a masterpiece, knit together perfectly and purposefully by the Creator of the universe!
Your words, stories, experiences & comments matter! Leave yours below to start the convo.
I’m cheering for you!
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A Little Something Extra…
Each week, I like to share a little something extra, something I’ve found fun or helpful. It might be a post, book, podcast, tv show, movie, song, Bible verse…or something else I think you’ll enjoy.
As we continue to celebrate Black History Month, I thought I’d share one of my favorites - The Color Purple.
I didn’t grow to love books until I was a teenager so I didn’t know this masterpiece began as a novel in 1982. But I’ve always loved powerful stories. I remember watching The Color Purple as a teenager, seeing the bond between sisters Celie (Whoopie Goldberg) and Nettie (Akosua Busia), the struggle for survival, and the deep desire to discover one’s identity.
It wasn’t until I was older that I got a copy of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel and read it cover to cover.
Then in 2005, the musical version was released on broadway where it ran for three years, earning 11 Tony nominations. It was revived in 2015 where it ran for two more years.
This American classic is coated in heartbreak and hope, struggle and sisterhood, abuse and adoration. To this day, I catch myself pausing to watch the rest any time I see it’s on tv. It’s not only one of my favorites. It’s an important view of history from a perspective that’s too long been silenced.
I’ve also included The Color Purple on my Family Movie Guide. Get your free copy when you subscribe to Mixed.ology.
Have you seen or read The Color Purple? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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Reading Maggie’s comment, I wonder if my Swedish and German ancestry would once have been considered mixed. If so, we have made progress, but as you point out, there is more to be made. Thank you for an excellent article.
This is so good, Torrie! I'm learning a lot from you. Thank you for the important work you are doing!