All identities come with a lot of baggage. They are complicated and evershifting and our relationships to them evolve as we grow and change as well but being biracial seems to come with it’s own special set of issues that mostly boil down to people rejecting things that don’t fit into a binary. People want easily defined labels and when those aren’t available they work to shove you into whichever one is easiest for them to digest. It’s why people will insist that bisexuals are defined by their partner at any given time so if you are seeing someone of the same sex you must be gay now and if you’re seeing someone of the opposite you must be straight. With mixed-race people, there is a similar insistence on choosing a side. Often times the side is a sliding scale based on skin tone but sometimes just being mixed race is enough to have people from your darker side dismissing you as not belonging.
Hollywood casts a lot of biracial, specifically half white, actors in monoracial or ambiguous roles and this isn’t a statement on anything except for colorism and the preference for their diversity to be as unchallenging to the white default as possible. There are a lot of conversations about this and so many of them end up using the colorism issue to take shots at biracial people claiming they aren’t ~really~ black or Asian or Latinx and some even go as far to say they’re white (which, Yara Shahidi refuted that best when she said “in most spaces I enter I’m seen and treated as a black woman”). This is all despite the fact that while yes half white people can be lighter, not all lighter-skinned people of colour are biracial and there are plenty of examples of someone half-white being darker than someone monoracial.
I’ve had so many conversations with half white biracial friends where we’re worried about being seen claiming our identity on our “ethnic” side. When Selena Gomez used Dia De Los Muertos imagery on one of her tours she was the subject of numerous think pieces about whether this was cultural appropriation or not because she’s ~only~ half Mexican. There were people straight up saying that Chloe Bennet’s character Skye/Daisy Johnson on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is white even though Chloe is half-Chinese. This a good 12 years after the same conversations happened with regards to the half-Chinese Kristin Kreuk when she played Lana Lang on Smallville. Maya Rudolph, Meghan Markle, and Rashida Jones have all been accused of being white as well despite having a black parent and certainly not having the same doors open to them as white actors. It’s awful and harmful because there is nothing “only” about us.
Biracial people have just as much right to both sides of their heritage as any monoracial person and denying us that under the guise of fighting colorism or colonialism is not doing anything positive for anyone. People are so insistent that everyone fits into neat little molds and we just don’t.
And this is why we need biracial characters to look up to. I said it before in my post about bisexuality, having actors to look up to is lovely but actors are human and flawed and, even when you spend a lot of time on social media and reading articles, not as accessible. You may know an actor is biracial but if their character isn’t explicitly said or shown to be biracial then it’s not rep. You need to be thinking about the lowest common denominator because you can be sure there will be people trying to deny it.
Showing the parents is certainly the quickest way to get the point across which is why some of the best rep is in kids/teens shows like Andi Mack, Miraculous Ladybug and the upcoming Netflix show Alexa & Katie. And why so many people were excited when Gugu-Mbatha Raw and Chris Pine were cast as Dr. Kate and Alex Murray in A Wrinkle In Time.
I just want to talk about how I started openly weeping when I saw the A Wrinkle in Time trailer. SHE’S. MIXED. RACE. In media, we occasionally see mixed couples, and maybe their kids. But a mixed Protag?? I’m so happySeeing it this weekend
Also. For days after seeing #AWrinkleInTime I thought about how powerful it was to see a biracial character in a big studio movie. @ava beautifully normalized what so many families look like. I wish my younger self could have seen this. That she could have been seen like this.
This is our normal and it’s something so rarely seen, especially on the big screen. And as the hero? Almost unheard of. We want our lives to be normalized too. Meg Murray is a teen girl who loves her brother, is depressed about her dad being gone and just wants to fit in. And she’s explicitly mixed race.
There’s a question people like to ask, “when’s the first time you saw yourself on screen?” And for so many mixed-race people that answer is going to be “in A Wrinkle In Time.” There’s so much coyness involved in media to try to be as broadly appealing as possible and not ruffle any feathers but the truth is we need explicitness because otherwise the message is “your identity is something to be talked around but never acknowledged” and that transfers over into real-life interactions. Meg Murray, Ava DuVernay and A Wrinkle In Time blast straight through that and I for one am incredibly grateful.