By Victoria Malaney
As I sat down to write this blog as the Scholarship and Resources Coordinator for the Multiracial Network (MRN), I was thinking of recent articles that have been published online regarding multiracial beauty. Anecdotally, as a multiracial person it was not uncommon for my siblings and I to have strangers comment on our physical looks growing up. Sometimes the comments would be, “Oh your parents did good!” or “Wow, you all are just so beautiful!”, while these comments were unexpected and flattering I was always taken aback by the strangers who amongst stopping to comment us about our looks, we would also get the follow up question, “What are you?” The typical response, “I’m… [insert racial identifiers],” would ensue.
On the other hand, when I reflect upon my personal experiences with racism, a lot of these instances have stemmed around misconceptions of my racial background and nationality. I knew that these racial comments or microaggressions were a direct result of my ambiguous physical appearance. Being Irish, Polish, Indian, and Trinidadian, among other ethnicities, yet to be determined (mixed people, you know this struggle is real) is complex, highly personal, and is unique to each person.
As a multiracial woman, I have come to understand different standards of beauty. A recent article by the National Geographic received a lot of attention, stating that by 2050 Americans will essentially be so racially mixed that they will be beautiful. When I first read the National Geographic article I was thinking, “Oh yeah, multiracial people ARE beautiful,” but, kidding aside, when I stopped to think more critically about this, I wanted this blog post to also incorporate a perspective on beauty that discusses how multiracial people tend to be overwhelmingly described as exotic. Comments that imply “all multiracial people are beautiful” can flirt a fine line between making multiracial people feel othered and even discriminated against. For example, someone can say, “Oh, wow, don’t you just have gorgeous hair,” which ,when you’re mixed, could be a compliment towards your prominent white/lighter features. Although a comment like this is well-intentioned, it can start to objectify and otherize your physical features as a mixed person, and as a mixed woman you can start to value certain physical features over others.
Depending on your racial heritage, skin color, and your dominant facial features, people’s perceptions of you can influence the way you view your own beauty. From different hair colors, textures, and length, these are all a part of a person’s image. Additionally, skin color and facial features, such as eye color, nose and lip shape, all contribute to mixed notions of beauty. Different expectations are placed on women to conform to accepted beauty standards. In general, we cannot keep making the blanketed assumption that multiraciality will always be beautiful. To me, inner beauty, must also be incorporated into this conversation.
As we stand up for racism today with the YWCA’s campaign, I remember to stand against racism because discrimination and racism hurts—plain and simple. Being apart of the growing multiracial population, conversations on the complexity of race, beauty, and racial identity need to continue. As a larger community we need to educate the public about racism and its residual impacts (e.g., can cause a decline in personal self-esteem) so we can move away from hurtful racist comments towards healing. bell hooks (2003), a feminist and educator agrees: “Education is about about healing and wholeness. It is about empowerment, liberation, transcendence, about renewing the vitality of life” (p.43).
Why do you stand against racism? Do you have a story to share about your experience being exoticized as a multiracial person? What are your perceptions of beauty? Join the dialogue below. The Multiracial Network and I look forward to reading your comments below. Remember to be kind!
This post is part of the YWCA Stand Against Racism blog carnival – we invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.
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