Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Interracial Cartoon Family And Why We Don't Look Like Countries Anymore

I never dreamed of the day when a syndicated cartoon would feature an interracial family. Since I'm not a regular reader of newspaper comics, I have no idea how long the strip called Jump Start written by Robb Armstrong has been in effect, nor how long it's featured an interracial family. Last week, as I was scanning the Sunday comic page and spotted it, I did a double-take. I didn't dupe the cartoon here because, unlike other folks, I do respect copyright laws. I did check out the artist's site, but the cartoon that ran in my local paper wasn't posted there. Instead, there were some with longer panels.

Anyway, in the four panel piece that I read, a little boy (sort of a beige-ish color) asks his burly, brown-skinned and obviously Negroid-featured father, "Dad, am I black or white?" His father replies, "CJ, your heritage is rich. My side of our family is Jamaican, Cherokee and Nigerian. Your mom is Italian, Irish, and German." The father says this last part while hugging his red-headed, very light beige-ish wife. The boy then asks, "Which one is our favorite?"

In looking over the list of nationalities the father mentioned, I realized that they aren't necessarily races or ethnic groups in of themselves. For instance, one could be born "German", but be of African ancestry because a parent migrated from Ghana. In other words, stating that one is "German" is similar to stating that one is "American". Is everyone in America Anglo? Is everyone in Germany?

It got me thinking about what, exactly, people mean when they tell me I look Brazilian, Cuban or Hawai'ian. When I recently watched Antonia, a Brazilian film about four singing girls of various hues and combos of local Indian, Portuguese and ancestors of African slaves, it struck me how many possibly different looks a Brazilian could possess. When people tell me I look Hawai'ian, do they mean I could pass for a Native like Princess LikeLike, or are they referring to one of the many mixes of hapa Asians or hapa haoles that now inhabit the islands of Hawai'i? What about when they ask me if I'm Cuban? Are they referring to the descendants of African slaves, Spanish invaders, or perhaps Taino or Arawak Indians, or all of the above?

It gets pretty complicated. As more people migrate worldwide, it will no longer be correct to tell someone that they look like a country. We will either need to be more specific, or else forget about racial designations altogether.

I have a Kenyan friend who is Kamba. She tells me that she can easily tell the differences among the main ethnicities--Kikuyu, Luhya and Luo-- even though to us outsiders they all look Kenyan, or African to those less learned. I have another friend who is the stereotyped red-headed, milky-skinned Irish American. She has told me fascinating tales of Black Irish who live in Ireland, and are of African Moorish descent.

My point is that to say someone looks like a particular country anymore is redundant. To state that someone is Jamaican isn't descriptive enough. Bob Marley was Jamaican, but Bob Marley also had a white European father. Do all Jamaicans look like Bob Marley? Certainly not Peter Tosh.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see where the future takes us. Perhaps we'll all become so multinational that we'll no longer be able to distinguish anyone racially based on the country of their origin.

That's me with Ava DuVernay in the photo above. A well-known L.A. publicist, Ava also made a documentary called This Is The Life. I'll post her link, momentarily.

Your Hip Hapa,
Yayoi

4 comments:

mixie said...

I like this post!

Great site btw, I am a mixed race Englishwoman and one of the most interesting bits of my life was the time I spent working in Tokyo. An old lady scrunched my hair uninvited, but unlike in the UK, I gave her a free pass. ;-)

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

I love your hair!

btw, I totally forgot that the second largest population in Brazil are the Japanese. Therefore, when someone says that I look Brazilian, they could be referring to the Japanese in me.

mixie said...

Thank you!

And when I was walking through Yoyogikoen and saw all those Japanese guys playing and dancing perfect samba I thought I had fallen down a rabbit hole! Then I realized they were Brazilian. That was a cool moment.

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Hey Mixie!

Will your photos eventually turn into a full frontal picture? I love the way you have a slightly different version each time--as if they're a slide show in slow-mo.

Your Hip Hapa,
Yayoi