“What’s your area of expertise?” a researcher wanted to know.
“I’m a mother,” I said.
That’s how my experience at the Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference began. I wanted to know what kind of research is being conducted, who is conducting it and how it impacts our lives. I learned all of that and much more.
The conference began as one for college professors and researchers and quickly morphed into something larger. Organizers thought 50 people would come to DePaul University in Chicago for a November conference and were pleasantly surprised when 450 people registered for the event. The participants were a mix of scholars, researchers, advocates, students, book publishers, journalists, artists and bloggers. Such a diverse group helped paint an eclectic landscape of critical mixed race studies for veterans and newcomers like me.
A sense of urgency pulsed through the conference as participants discussed where the mixed race movement should go from here. Some, I learned, are growing tired of seeing and hearing individual stories and would rather see some kind of action. Participants discussed everything from joining forces with anti-racists, to forming a coalition, to funding a political action committee.
Some group leaders say they need money to do more and pointed out that mixed race organizations are largely nonprofit ventures run by volunteers. On the other hand, some envisioned a day when such organizations would no longer be needed, a time when they can construct their own destruction and put themselves out of business.
At the same time, researchers are trying to firmly establish a concrete discipline and would like to create a scholarly journal for critical mixed race research. All of this as some colleges are dismantling ethnic studies programs, and some of the remaining programs view the addition of critical mixed race studies as a threat.
As for me, the conference affirmed my quest to write a memoir about raising Simone and Nadia. During one discussion, a researcher wondered where all of the black mothers who are raising biracial children have gone. Why haven’t they written books? Why haven’t their stories been told?
There have been numerous memoirs written by white mothers raising multiracial children, and multiracial children have written about their white mothers. By contrast, there haven’t been memoirs written by black mothers and their children. I’m hoping I can help change that as I continue to work on my book. If black mothers stories aren’t being told, it also means there has been little research, leaving a door open for my book and me.
Here’s something else I learned at the conference. Many of the support groups established for multiracial families and children were started by white mothers. They began on the East and West coasts, with some groups springing up in urban centers like Chicago. The South, though, doesn’t have such an organization.
Mixed race support organizations have formed chapters in the South, but it may be time for such a group rooted in the South to join the movement. I’d argue the region has the most need, given it includes the states that still had anti-miscegenation laws in place when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed them in 1967.
While most of the questions raised at the conference went unanswered, they laid the seeds for progress in the near future. Conference organizers are planning another conference for 2012, and I plan to be there.
Chime in. Where do you see the movement in the near future?