From in-family racism and feeling neither here nor there, to the burden being simultaneously oppressed and privileged, Authorrising discusses the intricacies of dual heritage
Often in the discourse about race and racism, things are argued in black and white terms leaving those of mixed heritage feeling sidelined. The ever changing labels to describe those who belong to more than one ethnic group continues to be a source of contention. "Half-caste" began to sound extremely archaic so many opted for mixed race, mixed race eventually gave way to dual heritage. Recently Kanye received backlash for putting out a casting call for “multiracial women only” to model in Yeezy Season 4 which caused some to conclude it was either a failed attempt at appearing forward thinking or revolutionary. Or even that he wanted black features but not black women.
This is why many view all of the above as “failed” categories. Somebody who struggles to get behind these labels is Gabriela Chase, the editor of Authorrissing, a new zine exploring the intricacies of having an identity that consists of more than one race. “I came up with the Authorrissing after being asked to fill in a questionnaire about the London mixed race experience. I didn’t really feel they asked me anything beyond how I fitted in,” she explains. “Why was this the only point of interest? I came to realise that nobody requires mixed race perspectives in theory or society.” As a result, the zine catalogues the varied ways in which people mixed with a range of ethnicities experience British society. Chase likens Authorrissing to Humans of New York in the way that the interviews show a snapshot of people's lives and identities. "You start from the middle, finishing at the beginning. Our experiences of ourselves are not linear, so why write about ourselves as if we can just finish?”
Her aim to is to attract people “who just wanna become woke on the issues surrounding the smallest (2%) and fastest growing racial group in the world”. Whether it is the problematic interactions with ignorant family members who reject one side of their heritage or being expected to choose which side you identify more with, the Authorrissing documents mixed race viewpoints in their own right. The first issue ‘Trying to fit into a mould that won’t flex’ interviews people who “identify as mixed race, don’t (politically) identify as mixed race and those who question the definition of mixed race identity entirely”. Along with the Tumblr and Instagram accounts, all of the photography, art, design and personal design take into consideration that not all identities and opinions of mixed race people align with each other and each story will differ from the other, just as their heritages do. We speak to Chase about this unique project and what she has learnt so far.
Why do you think it is important to start documenting the experiences of those with mixed heritage?
Gabriela Chase: I guess the reason why I think it is important is because in what context do you hear ‘mixed race’ and think beyond our aesthetic? Even in history, we have been abstracted from books because we threaten White hetero-dominance. Slowly, we are familiarising ourselves with the centuries of erasure towards women in society, people accepting that men are threatened by marginalised voices taking spaces and silencing voices. Mixed identities have yet to gain such entitlement.
For example, the discussion surrounding the Loving film that is coming out soon, that documents the Loving v Virginia (1967) case on legalising inter-racial marriages in America leads people to assume the political existence of mixed race people only began in the 18/19th century. Some would say 1692 even. But whenever invasion of lands and conquering has occurred, mixed race histories have been created. The lack of historical documentation on this is because those mixed race lives were a product of rape. Rape isn't something that heroes of history want attached to their legacy. It is also why there has been a hesitancy to really configure how mixed race people exist within everyone's history. There is an abhorrent amount of shame, guilt and silence behind our collective histories and nobody wants to claim that.
Why do you view "mixed race" as a failed category?
Gabriela Chase: Mixed race is a term not bestowed by mixed people for mixed people, but instead for everyone else. There are certain criteria I believe many people use to signify a race, an ethnicity, or identity. Some are a result of many mixtures and are not limited to being two halves. Some view themselves as being beyond ‘Black and White, more than lightskin, yet mixed race identity theory has been robbed of its own autonomy.
Some view mixed race people as the future as if we are post-race in a way. Or like our presence in society will end racism (laughing). Constantly, I feel used as a tool to measure white tolerance and the reaches of globalisation. At the same time voyeurism and fetishization plague our everyday existence. Rarely does anyone properly deconstruct the dual burden of being mixed race people. Of possessing both ‘oppressed’ and ‘privileged’ status’ in our lives. We hear ‘but all mixed race people are beautiful’ and ‘you are not black/brown enough to talk about our struggle’. Reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo is probably the closest writing recently that reiterates my anxiety when making ‘race claims’
“Whenever invasion of lands has occurred, mixed race histories have been created. Those mixed race lives were a product of rape. Rape isn’t something that heroes of history want attached to their legacy.” – Gabriela Chase
Do you think the representation of people who fit into this category needs to improve in media and other spaces?
Gabriela Chase: Firstly, what do we mean by representation? Physical representation or representation of the self? I feel mixed race people lack a voice in identity making. Sure I see mixed people taking the slots of Black/Brown people to aid white consumption of the ‘other’ not too much black, but just enough, perpetuating white only beauty standards that make other feel inferior. Kanye West’s casting call is a shining example of male shallowness. I think the whole thing was probably a publicity stunt as there were a whole load of different shades of Black/Brown in the show. Again, it seems like another powerful Black man who is pitting Black women against one another.
How do you view your own mixed heritage?
Gabriela Chase: I used to do all the whole I’m half-Black, half-White thing, but my Black heritage consists of Bajan, Cuban and Panamanian blood and I was unaware I was offering myself as a fraction to people. I was listing all the identities I identified with without admitting how none of them permitted me the license to be accepted as a whole person to look at. I feel by continuing this language we are by fortune, continuing the imagery that we are not whole persons, to ourselves and everyone else too. I say Black mixed race when I am asked usually.
You can see more of Gabriela's Zine here