In light of all the turmoil going on in America, I have been very introspective. I haven’t started working yet, so perhaps I have a little too much time on my hands- which means that I’ve had a LOT of time to think. As I have mentioned before, I am mixed. Half Black. Half Mexican. Only recently have I begun to be comfortable in my identity.
Over the years, my personal experiences and entertainment consumption molded how I thought about myself for the longest time. I was very confused. I hated having to fill in one heritage bubble on my test sheets- and it always was the one I physically favored more, my Mexican side. Sometimes people could tell I was mixed, but most couldn’t. Some people would feign surprise when I told them I was half Black. Over the years, I always was in a weird limbo. I didn’t feel Black enough. I didn’t feel Mexican enough. I couldn’t really fit in anywhere else either. I was in a place where I didn’t want to be considered a flake or ignorant, and I didn’t want to be like Sam from Dear White People: speaking out profusely against racial injustice but hiding certain aspects of myself that weren’t considered Black (or Mexican).
I’ve always been a champion of mixed actors, characters, and interracial relationships, but I always found it heart-wrenching the lack of people like me on screen, and the lack of relationships like my parents’ too. I noted in Imitation of Life (1959) that Susan Kohner (Sarah Jane) was Jewish and Mexican instead of Black and White. I noticed in Queen that Halle Berry was painted with Kabuki-style makeup to look more white than what she was even though she is mixed in real life. I noticed that many actual mixed actors often portrayed races other than their own, or that white people with exotic features have been passed off as mixed in certain films like Emma Stone in Aloha. Ugh. Of course being Mexican and Black, the likelihood of ever seeing anyone like me or my family was/is slim. It was still a rarity to even see someone mixed with Black and White, and stated as such- since we know if you look black, you are cast as Black, since the entertainment industry has a light-skinned preference.
I also was constantly shown that curly, natural hair was unattractive. Did you ever notice that when a girl gets a makeover in a movie, her hair goes from frizzy to bone straight? Mia Thermopolis wasn’t pretty until her frizzy hair was tamed, and in Harry Potter, Hermione’s hair magically deflated as she got older. They aren’t mixed, but those ideals basically crap on those that are. For years, I hated my hair, and wanted to be like those girls in the movies who were magically more beautiful when their curls disappeared. Hollywood, what’s wrong with you?
Nowadays, mixed individuals and interracial relationships are occurring more often on screen, and that’s a good thing. I’m glad that like LGBT relationships, filmmakers are starting to place more diversity on the screen, and not make a mockery of the people and relationships. But it’s still not completely accepted. Remember that Cheerios commercial? People were in an uproar for no reason! I didn’t understand why people were so upset.
I was getting tired of the star-crossed lovers stories, rom-coms, and overly dramatic films of racial turmoil, and the period films. Oh yes the period films. Yes, I know it’s good to know what those before us endured, but after awhile you get a bit tired. I’m excited for Loving, and I loved the new Roots, and Belle, but I want to see mixed people in more contemporary films, you know? Don’t get me wrong, some of these films and shows are great, but I wanted a bit more. I was also tired of the failed positive interracial relationships. Most were deemed to end realistically, but you know that the studios and networks didn’t want them to end up together. And that hurt, knowing almost none of my male heroes would/will end up with someone like me on screen. And lastly, I was tired of the exotification of mixed women. They are shown as more desirable that their darker or lighter counterparts. Hey, we’re beautiful but we don’t want to be objectified constantly. I don’t want to see people like me praised while other women are put down.
All my life, I wanted to see someone as mixed, and proud. A lot of films send the message that mixed people should choose a side, or shows that one half of their parentage is missing or a piece of shit. Why is that? And I’ve always wanted to see interracial couples occur naturally. We do exist, you know. I didn’t always want there to be some huge debate, or reveal. I just wanted to see someone like me. Representation does matter. Mixed individuals ARE the fastest growing population in America. It’s time that the entertainment powers that be recognize it.