On January 20, 2009, two very crucial events took place in the modern American timeline: the first Black president was sworn into office and the phrase “post-racial society” became a staple in the white vernacular.
When it comes to dealing with the complexities and nuances of modern racism, non-POC tend to fall into the common trope of citing Barack Obama’s election as evidence that the US is no longer racist. Yet, in the year 2017 alone, we’ve faced more blatant acts of racism, prejudice and fear mongering than many of us can remember happening in the last decade.
Perhaps it’s something to do with the election of a man who popularized phrases like “build that wall” or “Muslim ban.” Perhaps the election of said man finally brought bigots and racists who have been living in the shadows into the light. Whatever the cause, the intricacies of our current state often feels overwhelming for the average person to process.
Thankfully, there are intellectual minds out there who have worked to identify the systemic and social injustices occurring.
Today, Julie Lythcott-Haims, New York Times best-selling author of How to Raise an Adult, stopped by the Viacom offices (which houses BET) to discuss her newest book, Real American: A Memoir. Lythcott-Haims, who is a biracial woman, understands the perils of self-racial identity as well as the labels placed on her by society.
I had the chance to speak one-on-one with Lythcott-Haims to discuss her personal experience as a biracial American as well as the recent racism we’ve witnessed in our country.
As a child growing up in the ’60s and 70s, Lythcott-Haims felt the overwhelming pressure to be accepted by both whites and Blacks.
“People presumed that I didn’t belong with my white mother,” Lythcott-Haims said. “There is an element of ‘biraciality’ that is different than just being Black. I had the sense from Black folks that I wasn’t Black enough. For much of my upbringing, [I] didn’t have a sense of belonging to both worlds.”
As the aging process changes us all, Lythcott-Haims grew to identify solely as a Black woman.
“As I became a full-fledged adult, I was able to see myself as a member in the Black community,” she said.
I couldn’t help but wonder if her ability to identify her own Blackness came from the inability of white people to understand the complexities of Black heritage. Sure, Barack Obama was called out for being biracial when he first threw his hat in the ring. However, the second he placed his hand on the Bible and took the oath, he became known to white America as Black — just Black.
“White America sees our skin and our hair, that signals to them Blackness,” Lythcott-Haims explained when asked about the biracial blind spot. “They have a whole construct around race hierarchy, so they don’t have an interest in someone having a white parent. Any perceived Blackness equals Black. There is no interest in the diversity of our heritage.”
Source: BET / Rachel Herron