“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?

10 thoughts to “Critical Mixed Race Studies

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  • Blanc2

    The world needs your book. There are obvious historical reasons why most prior writing/organizing involved white women: (a) most black/white parings in the past have been BM/WW; (b) white women were more likely to have access to the resources needed to write, edit, publish and distribute a book, as well as the educational background and personal leisure time that would cultivate the desire to write a book.

    However, there are now a lot of BW raising biracial children, and precious little by way of literature for them to look to as a sounding board or bellwether of their experience.

  • meeshtastic

    I second that. I’ve recently been scouring the internet for resources for black women raising mixed children and found the same issue. Your book is very much needed.

  • ET

    I am so thrilled to read your book (someday).

  • Nikki @ Euphoria Luv

    Thanks for writing about this. Yes, please write a book. I’m to lazy to do it myself 🙂

  • Laura Kina

    I’m so glad you could come to the 2010 Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. Yes, write your book! Thanks so much for posting a response. It’s very exciting to hear about your inspiration.

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  • Sabrica

    Great blog. I second the call for more search on Black moms raising Biracial kids. I’d also argue that one reason that you don’t see mixed race organizations in the South is because racism is still so prevalent that the “one-drop” rule still rules – and mixed race people are considered to be the minority race.

    • Honeysmoke

      Welcome to Honeysmoke. Yes, I agree with your reasoning about why there aren’t any mixed race organizations in the South. I may have to help change that.

  • TaRessa Stovall

    I think it would be great to have the perspectives of Black mothers of Biracial children, through books and other means. As someone who was in the forefront of the movement in the 70s as a Militant Mulatto, it’s not exactly accurate that the only books so far have been by White mothers because they have more access to publishing resources. Rather, in my observation, White mothers of Biracial children have been at the forefront of the movement because they had (at least back in the 70s) a stronger philosophy that their children were “different” and didn’t want them identifying as Black because in their views, that meant they–the mothers and their ancestry–were being overlooked/ignored. Simply put, until recently, most Black mothers of Biracial children seemed to view their children as Black and rear them as persons of color, and weren’t clamoring for a movement/category that focused on them. I left the movement back then BECAUSE it was all driven by the parents and not us Biracial people. We were spoken to and at, but not listened to and the movement was really about giving the children a way not to (have to) identify as Black, and to keep the mothers’ identity front and center in the equation. Also it isn’t racism in the South that accounts for the difference–as Malcolm X famously reminded us, “South of Canada is South” when it comes to racism, but rather the fact that how Biracial persons are viewed and categorized varies greatly by region in the USA, even to this day. In the South, the practical designation was that if you were a slave, you were categorized as “Black” and even with all of the fractioned designations to measure White blood, if you had ANY color, you were a slave. There weren’t degrees of slavery! And yes, of course, I’m writing a book from our perspective, because there still hasn’t been one that reflects a sane, healthy HONEST upbringing from the Biracial perspective. I’m grateful for the opportunity and look forward to reading your book(s) as well!

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