Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What it Means to be Biracial During Trump’s Presidency

By Andrea Wilkum 

It has been a week since the results have been announced that Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. Many hearts were shattered, many people wept, and many people are angry. Everyone keeps talking about the importance of unifying together as a nation to get through this tough time in addition to fighting together to defeat this monstrosity and to ensure that we do not allow this to happen again. As a country of immigrants, we need to understand that different races, multiracial and biracial, is what has made America unique and special. Unfortunately, from what I have experienced in the past week or so, this anger has been used for spite and hatred from minorities against minorities in a way that is counterproductive to the issues at hand.

Let me explain a little bit about my heritage so that you can understand where I am coming from. My mother is Mexican and my father is of German/Polish descent. I have always been aware of the cultural differences between the two as I spent much more time with my Mexican grandmother, “Nana,” for she was my caretaker growing up. My cousins, sister and I used to spend time helping my Nana make homemade tortillas, listening to Mexican music, hearing Mexican folktales and being surrounded by the language on a daily basis. When we went to visit my Dad’s side, this did not exist. The atmosphere was more rigid, disciplined and structured.

My sister and I were constantly adjusting to these different environments as we went from family to family. In all it was an experience with minor contrasts and, although we were completely aware of them, it never felt catastrophic nor did I think anything much of my mixed heritage. I have never been more aware of being biracial than I am now after these election results were announced.

Over the past week, I have heard nasty comments from individuals attacking white people in general or blaming all white people for the election result. I saw my friend, who is also biracial like me, being lumped into the category of ‘Caucasian.’  While posting a fact-based comment through social media, he was ridiculed for it based solely on his appearance and because has a white last name.  His detractors explicitly stated they did not care for facts and continued their racist remarks.

In response to being categorized in this way, he has calmly tried to explain that he is in fact bi-racial, but his arguments fell on deaf ears.  He eventually gave up since it seemed he was only hitting a brick wall. I understand that there is a legitimate reason to be upset and I am not condoning any sort of racist behavior that repeats how whites have conducted themselves toward other racial identities.  However, refusing to listen to reason and being against people based only on identity as opposed to class politics is exactly how we got to where we are in the first place. Spreading uninformed hate about a problem is only perpetuating the same problem and stereotypes.

I find that I have also been automatically lumped into the category of ‘Caucasian’ which has made many of my comments or critiques illegitimate and dismissed during the past week. This is simply based off of the idea that I have a German last name and I am light-skinned with European features. As a result, I feel that even if an idiot on Facebook posts something stupid and irrelevant, I am unable to comment because then I am just racist and don’t understand their point of view. I am not saying this is the case with everyone, but it is what I have experienced so far.

I will not deny that I have some form of privilege because of my identity and last name, nor will I try to defend that point. Being light-skinned has eliminated many problems for me and I will never understand what it is like to have a darker complexion or to be subject to racial profiling solely based on my appearance.  However, I do understand what it is like to see people I care about go through this experience on a daily basis.  I’ve witnessed it with Middle-Eastern neighbors and friends who refused to wear their traditional garb
because of the heightened fear of terrorism after 9/11.

It has often caught people off guard when I inform them that I also lived in Mexico for more than five years, that I have family members in many regions of Mexico, and that I can speak Spanish.  They think that it is a good thing and learn to accept me for it.  Unfortunately, with the current tide of events I feel that this explanation is only a desperate plea to win the side of minorities or an attempt to defend white privilege.

When I am simply dismissed as being an ignorant white person by people who do not know me, half of my identity is being dismissed as well. This is the same for blacks; take President Obama for example. He is biracial, however, his identity to this day is widely seen as strictly ‘Black.’ This is the same for all biracial identities.

Polarization in the United States is nothing new. We have polarized views on a wide variety of topics and often live in a very black and white world. For example, you are either against gay marriage, abortion, contraception, the military, or you are for it. The list goes on and on. The fact is that we should know better than to be separated by these simpleton views of black and white when, in reality, our world is made up of diversity, choices and exception.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Thank you Andrea for your very helpful comments. They make me think. I once got my DNA tested. I was born in by a river near the coast of Ireland. This test chowed me to be 50% Irish, whatever that is, 29% Scandinavian (Vikings?), 8% German, &% Iberian Pensinula and traces of Russian Jew. But i was born nd brought up in Ireland. Then I come to the USA. And over here I see the substantial difference between Irish born and bred like myself and Irish Americans. As you say Andrea, these divisions are very bad for all working class people. They are very good for the capitalist class. Keep working people divided and we cannot fight for our interests. Back to Ireland again. there are very few divisions along racial lines in Ireland. There was so much poverty there that people emigrated rather than immigrated so there was not much immigration, not many immigrants. But the British ruling class who ran the country for centuries did not let that stop them. They took action to see to solve their problem. In the 1600's they uprooted peasants from Scotland and planted them in the North east of Ireland. These peasants were mainly Protestant and the indigenous Irish peasants were mainly Protestant. On the basis of displacing the Irish Catholic peasants from their land and they being mainly, and replacing them with the planted peasants who were mainly Protestant the ruling class were able to drive the divide and rule in deep. Catholic rather than the planted peasants as Protestant the divide and rule was driven in deep. Then there was also the divide and rule on the basis of gender. Women were more exploited than men, worse jobs, lower wages, less access to health and reproductive care. Everywhere you go you see the minority ruling class using one thing or another to divide and rule the majority working class. The ruling class are always a minority they have to divide the majority to stay ruling. Trump and his gang will step this up. Divide and rule got him elected. The trade union leaders with their 14 million members mixed of all races and genders and sexual orientations could have stopped this. They could have built a united working class movement against the Republicans and the Democrats. Instead they supported the capitalist divide and rule Democrats. the result was as we see. Increased division. The trade union leaders are a disgrace. They should be removed from office. We need to build fighting workers groups in the rank and file of trade unions and the workplaces to replace them. But the working class has not had their say yet. A new workers movement will develop. this is shown already by the new youth movements that are developing against racism and the Trump gang. Sometimes the revolution needs the whip of the counter revolution. This is one of those times.