Before you start trolling me (not that I don’t need the attention), let me tell you the specific sentiment that this whole essay addresses. It usually starts when someone chimes in with their wide-eyed vision for 2050, the year when people of color will outnumber white people in America:
“One day when all the races have mixed together, and we can’t tell what anyone is anymore, there won’t be racism! All our cultures will blend together! And...the babies will be beautiful!”
Ah yes! This magic mixed-race future, where everyone will have fucked the hate out of everyone and in the process, thousands of years of colonialism, violence, and systemic oppression disappear into the “interesting facial features” of mixed-race people!
I’m not indicting the lives of mixed-race people nor chastising interracial relationships. But let’s get real — the hypothetical “Future World of Mixed-Race Babies” being the end of racism suffers from frighteningly naive logic about how racism actually works.
Here are SIX reasons why racial utopia won’t suddenly appear once we pull our pants down and start boning across borders.
1. Having sex with people of different races is not an effective means of fighting oppression.
And yet, so many creepazoids sincerely explain, “I can’t be racist, I’ve dated a Black/Latina/Asian woman before.” For bonus points? “I can’t be misogynist because I love my wife.” (Looking at you, Robin Thicke!) How does the “willingness” to have sex with a person of color do the heavy lifting of an entire social justice movement?
Actually, that inspired this short I made with Tani Ikeda about how Asian Vaginas End Racism.
2. You can’t ignore the historical legacy of mixed-race identity as a byproduct of rape, genocide, and colonialism.
Want to know how the average African-American came to be 65 percent sub-Saharan African, 29 percent European, and 2 percent Native American (source: Ancestry.com)? Most of America doesn’t want to talk about how the beginnings of “mixed-race utopia” started with slave owners raping slaves. And do you really need me to explain how not-utopic that’s turned out?
What this Mixed-Race Fantasia really implies is: The more we erase Black/Brown/Foreign bodies (who are the targets of racism), the less racism there will be. By romanticizing a future of mixed-race babies as symbols for “racial progress” without more meaningful interrogations of history, we equate an end of racism with the eradication of people of color.
3. Mixed-race people experience racism, too.
Shocker! Not all mixed-race babies are conceived in the “unconditional love across racial difference” that will be carried into their lives! Parents can pass on racist attitudes onto their kids without even realizing they are being racist in the first place. Interracial couples can have cultural conflicts and racial tensions with each other, and within the communities where they live.
And experiencing racism can be confusing when you are mixed. Sometimes you get to pass for one race, and then, in the company of those people, are told disparaging things about another race that you actually belong to! And then there’s the whole not being Asian, White, Black "enough" to ever find acceptance in any one community.
My half Asian friends have told me stories of being told they aren’t “Asian enough,” or they’re “complimented” on how white they “act” (you know, because race is a show!). One friend told me she’s “too black” to be embraced by her Asian side of the family (Curveball! Not all mixed-race people are half white!).
And then there are light-skinned mixed-race people who’ve told me they sometimes pass as “honorary white” and get to hear disparaging things said about people of color. And suddenly, they are in an awkward position of “outing their colored side” and speaking up.
4. Racism is not just about racial slurs and hate crimes.
Who will we use our racial epithets on if we can’t “see race” anymore? Unfortunately, racism is more than an N-word, or being mean to someone because they are Mexican. It’s embedded in our institutions, judicial system, and access to quality education.
How will the economic and educational inequities as tied to today’s racial inequalities remain residually in the future? How will the current disproportionate number of men of color in the prison system not have a residual impact on this future mixed-race utopia?
5. Three words: President Barack Obama.
Having a mixed-race President born in Hawaii hasn’t exactly been the magical human bridge to end longstanding racial tensions. If anything, it’s gotten people working a lot harder to code their racism while other racist people haven’t bothered hiding their racism AT ALL.
And has having a mixed-race Black President stopped racial profiling by the police? Nope.
6. You can’t expect mixed-race people to be the magic manifestation of multiple cultures “blended” together when our own global culture does not support the linguistic, ecological, or cultural diversity it once had.
On this planet, one language dies out every 14 days. U.S. regional dialects are less common in the Internet age. Indigenous plants and polycultural forests are rapidly clearcut for monocultural farming (Dust Bowl, anyone?). In many sub-Saharan African countries, Christianity has replaced indigenous spiritual practices completely. And the more I travel the U.S., the more I find the same stores in every city’s mall.
Sure, we may all “blend” together into one culture one day, but it will probably be the one that speaks English only and is stamped with a corporate logo.
I’m sorry, but hundreds of years of racism isn’t just going to vanish on a futuristic All-You-Can-Eat Genetic-Buffet plate. The work to dismantle racism starts now.
Here’s how: Understand how racism really manifests. Cede your privilege when you have it, to recenter the most marginalized voices in the room. Learn about history and racial migration. Be an ally to those affected most by oppression. Work to unlearn racism daily in meaningful ways.
And most important, don’t wait for 2050.