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Film Finds – I’m Bi-Racial… Not Black Damn It!

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I’m Bi-Racial…Not Black Damn It! is a documentary produced and directed by Carolyn Battle Cochrane.

Here’s a work that I think fits into the ongoing discussions we’ve had on this site about what blackness is and is not, and who amongst us can or cannot claim the label.

I think the obvious title makes it quite clear what the film is about, and what we can expect.

However, the words of the filmmaker are worth sharing.

Read on, and check out the film’s trailer below.

On November 4, 2008 history was made as America overwhelmingly voted a man of color into the highest position of power in the United States…

… Over the past two years… we have learned about his bi-racial heritage and that he was primarily raised by his white mother and her parents. In spite of the visual documentation and excerpts from his background, journalist headlines and anchor’s commentaries have not changed. They all continue to hail Obama as the first “African-American” President. This is only half true. He is equally white. Therefore, he is not an African-American rather he is bi-racial…

… My personal and sometimes painful reflections as a bi-racial woman have led me, by way of this documentary, to become an ambassador of clarity about this subject for which I am most definitely qualified. I grew up identifying as a black woman because of the perception of my visual appearance. Often, I felt compelled by circumstances to disassociate or even denigrate part of myself in order to “fit in.”…

… As our nation begins an exciting new chapter in the history books, let us not miss an opportunity to make an accurate record of this historic moment. We can begin by noting that our new Commander-in-Chief is black by identity, not birthright. Let it be duly noted that he is not the first African American but the first bi-racial President.

This current socio-political climate provides an ideal backdrop for, long over-due, conversations that fully explore the bi-racial experience; especially at a time, when uneducated accusations are being made… It is time, right now, to set the record straight with an international cast of individuals that convey personal and provocative viewpoints about the complexities of growing up with mixed parentage.

This is a film I’d definitely see. Like I said, it contributes to related discussions we’ve had on this site.

However, to my knowledge, the film isn’t yet widely available. Not even on DVD. I sent a message to the filmmaker, and I’m waiting for a response, which I’ll post here. I did notice a mention on the filmmaker’s website about a screening in NYC, on September 5, 2009 at 2PM. I’ll wait for confirmation on that as well.

In the meantime, check out the 4-minute trailer below.

28 comments to Film Finds – I’m Bi-Racial… Not Black Damn It!

  • NothingButAMan

    A part of me respects that biracial/multicultural americans grow up with a different experience of race that is often unaddressed on a mainstream level, but on the other hand, it feels like there are many that too easily fall into the “tragic/confused mulatto” stereotype.

    What would be nice is if ALL OF US in this country, and the world, could take a step back and remember that the concept of race is completely fictional; despite the realities of racism.

    Being “mixed race” is nothing new to this country, or the world, so why all the drama?

  • cuse

    Why all the drama? Come on!

    I’m not “bi-racial” and so I can’t speak firsthand to that experience. However, I think I can understand the need to feel validated, and not feel like you have to choose one or the other, when you’re both.

    Yes, race is “fictional” and it would be nice if none of this even matters, but the fact is that it does in the world we\’ve created for ourselves. And we have to deal with it. So until that utopia materializes, “race” as we know it will continue to be a hot-button issue for most of us.

    And I wouldn’t call the search for one’s identity “drama.” As you stated, their’s is an experience that is often unaddressed.

    • NothingButAMan

      Searching for your identity?

      So, your identity is defined by your racial experience, even though you don’t want to be defined by race?

      The saddest part about this doc to me is that it’s supposedly about affirming the experiences/identities of biracial people, but in doing so seems to just fulfill that old “tragic mulatto” narrative.

      As far as the younger children in the trailer are concerned, i’m gonna have to implicate the parents/guardians. There is no reason ANY child in this day and age should have those sort of unresolved identity issues.

      • cuse

        You know I’m not sure why you’re having a negative reaction to this when it really has nothing to do with you at all.

        It’s easy for you to sit back and judge because you’ re so obviously well-adjusted and superior sitting on your throne. Good for you! They should be allowed to work through their own issues so that they can become just like you.

        Using your logic, then we’re all tragic in some way and none of us has anything to complain about. It’s a cold, cruel world, so stop whining and deal with it, right? Then we all shouldn’t ever complain about any of it.

        Anyway, you already affirmed my stance when you affirmed that their experience is different and is often unaddressed. Exactly!

        • NothingButAMan

          I’m exactly sure how to respond, since you didn’t address any of my actual points. I have a few final thoughts and I’ll leave it at that:

          1) You would do well not to presume if this issue has “nothing to do with me” or not. This is a virtual space, for all you know I could be a 1/4 north afro-brazilian, 1/4 cherokee and 1/2 vulcan.

          2) Perhaps you should review the “tragic mulatto” phenomenon before you attempt to follow my “negative” logic.

          3) Clearly i’m not interested in silencing or invalidating the participants in the film (as if I could), but my position stands in that I fail to see the affirmation in what was presented in the trailer.

          • cuse

            Actually I did address your points, however broadly. And I’m fully aware of the so-called “tragic mulatto” stereotype. But -lm not married to these conrtructs.

            As I’ve already implied, to all your points, you haven’t seen the film, and you know little to nothing about the people in it, and, from where I’m standing, you seem to be making assumptions and passing judgement on them.

            How about watching it before assigning them to some stereotype, and in essence seemingly dismissing their experience.

  • My heart went out to some of those little kids having to deal with how to identify themselves… but as a little black girl, I didn’t exactly have a whale of a time of it growing up, either.

    We all have our crosses to bear and, sadly, it seems that, unless you’re white, one of those crosses will have to do with the colour of your skin.

    Like everyone else, bi-racial people (and not just black/white racial mixes) have their own stories to tell which deserve to be told, and it must be frustrating as hell for one half or your heritage to be totally ignored by most people you encounter.

    However, what concerns me whenever I hear this “I’m not black” argument is that it’s usually a symptom of people wanting to distance themselves from their black heritage and all negative connotations that that brings (like being “ghetto”) to white people, rather than to forge a healthy acceptance of both their parents’ origins.

    I can’t imagine many people will want to pay to see this, but it looks like an interesting TV doc I’d definitely watch.

  • I saw this posted at Karen’s blog and yeah I really didn’t like the title. I watched the trailer and like I said at her site. It saddens me it really does. I have Bi-Racial children but like someone said earlier, in America being of mixed race is nothing new and it has been proven as scientific fact we are all born of Africa.

    I know that self-esteem and the journey of self-discovery can come with a hard road for anyone no matter your background but I also agree with a few of the comments above. We all have our crosses to bear.

    I don’t like the idea of people wanting to distance themselves from being black (and I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone in the above film) but from personal experience I have relatives who do just that, even making up complete falsehoods.

    To me, it’s not being black that’s the problem. It’s letting outside influence dictate your worth and who you are. If you know inside who you are and love yourself, life is a much easier pill to swallow.

  • Kalima

    This is interesting. I appreciate that it stated that Obama is black by complexion but not by birthright. This fact is the major is something I have been pointing out as what distinguishes him from me since day one…

    But I will also say that almost all “African-Americans” with a legacy that begins here in the States are all multi-racial and ethnic. The difference between earlier mixing and now is that people are currently allowed to show both blood lines, whereas in the past it had to remain hidden, masked and denied for centuries.

    While I don’t subscribe to the idea that if you even a 1/4th black you are still black I think we are ignoring that these societal stigmas do exist. A lighter shade of dark will not immediately prevent you from being categorized as black. People are not going to wait for someone to go into how they are really half this and half that when immediate categorizing them upon a 1st encounter. To be dark skinned in America will always have specific stigmas to it. Even in an age when some would like to believe that racism no longer exists.

    I fear that when people pull out their biracial membership card it will only stand to separate children of the Diaspora even further. We are already split in this country by categories and labels such as but not limited to: Latino, African-American (a.k.a. descendant of American Slaves), Africans (those recently relocated from the Continent) and West Indians.

  • Kalima

    What we need are less labels. We need to acknowledge that though our journey from the Continent has been different for each of us, we all come from one. As a group (AA, WI, A, L, B-R, etc) are all looked upon by American society with specific lenses and should therefore unit to work towards nullifying the power of these very stigmas that have separated us for generations.

  • I’m biracial and I’m glad that these stories are being told! It’s not about distancing one’s self from blackness but instead embracing all that you are and rejecting the world’s label of what you “should” be.

    Also, there is 16 minute excerpt of the film available here…

    http://vimeo.com/4348637

  • pnc

    Skip Gates researched his lineage and found out he was 50% white. What a useless 50%! It didn’t do much to save him from being cuffed and arrested on his own porch.

    So while I think it’s great to acknowledge genealogy, how you look…whether you are dark/light or fat/thin, whatever…people are going to judge you by appearances. Biracials who look black will be treated as such. Biracials who look white mostly likely will be spared from getting-into-your-suburban-home-while-black syndrome. It’s a sad reality.

  • ladybug

    So many people in this world are more than one thing. There are white people who are Italian and Irish, two groups that are quite culturally different. But you don’t see them writing books or making documentaries about wanting people to accept it. When you come down to the core of this issue its about distancing from blackness or wanting everyone to know about the whiteness. It is always stated as being inclusive of all of a persons heritage. No one is asking bi-racial people to deny their white parent. But really its about the blackness. Everyone wants to distance themselves . . that is unless its some way beneficial to them.

    I said to a friend the black community thinks they are beautiful, the white community could give a damn . . . and there in lies angst.

    I mean being identified as black doesn’t make you any less bi-racial. Just like being identified as Italian and you are both Irish and Italian would make you any less Irish.

    This goes back to slavery, field slaves and house slaves. And how its going down is no different, the house slaves want it known that there not like the rest of them.

    And as for the girl in the trailer talking about the racism she experienced from black people, I am guessing its probably hate she is getting from black women. Hate routed in the putting bi-racial beauty on a pedestal. Hate that likely wouldn’t exist if their lack of it wasn’t constantly being reinforced. Values are all so warped and its taking its toll on little black girls (not the bi-racial ones) with tremendous blows to their self esteem. I see it everyday as a teaching artist in New York City Public Schools.

    I maybe could get down with this documentary if it talked to mixed raced people that weren’t just black and white. But from the trailer it just looks like the same old thing.

    • Ladybug, if you watch the 16 minute excerpt they have a lady who is mixed with Asian and white so the film isn’t limited to the black/white blend. And when it comes to the biracial experience people of all types of mixes deal with similar issues. Their Asian-ness or Native American-ness may be put into question. So it goes beyond just a black and white thing.

    • cuse

      You use bad analogies Ladybug. Black or white aren’t cultures. When you get specific and use Italian or Irish, that’s a completely different thing. In this country, those people would automatically be labelled white. So an Italian marrying an Irish person may as well be a white person marrying another white person. Their children will be considered white.

      And your slave analogy is uninformed and insulting.

      We, black people, claim biracial people. It happens all the time. And the country sees them as black. Look at our president. And you say no one is asking them to deny their white parent? Maybe not directly and openly, but based on what I just said, this country and us are indirectly denying their white ancestry.

      If you watch the video again, you’ll see clearly that equal commentary is given to both black and white. They all mostly talk about dealing with both the black and the white, not just the black.

      You sound unnecessarily angry and judgemental, and don’t realize that your anger is misplaced. I’m a black woman and I wasn’t at all insulted or felt like this was an attempt to distance themselves from black. It’s not an attempt to make your own experience any less significant. And I’m secure enough in my own skin to not feel threatened by anything that was said. They have every right to voice their own issues. We talk as if they should just shut up and be quiet which is wrong.

      And I’m guessing you’re not biracial either based on your comments, so you have no idea what their experience is, so you’re in no position to pass judgement and make assumptions.

      Watch the film first and then make an informed decision.

  • mlm

    i don\’t like this subject. i agree with some of you and oppose others. i\’m sure there are people who will relate to the film and i hope it has some sort of message.

  • Aaron

    I am not feeling this film. It always seem that there a need to get away from black. But never a need to get away from white. What is the point?

  • Did I see a completely different trailer than what most of you saw?

    I’d definitely say that the title of the film is unfortunate, and if I were the filmmaker I’d consider changing it, because it doesn’t seem like it reflects the content within it.

    But nothing I saw in the trailer (which I’ve watched several times today, trying to see what others might be seeing) makes me feel as if this is somehow a bi-racial bitchfest, with the rejection of blackness at its core.

    I don’t think I heard a single person in the clip strongly identify as one or the other, or suppress either. I heard people saying that they, essentially, don’t feel like they necessarily are accepted, nor feel like they belong in EITHER group, and are simply trying to figure out where and how exactly they fit in – within the context of this social construct we call “race;” which has, and continues to divide and damage us, as we’re seeing on this thread.

    I despise labels of almost any sort! I’m sure I’ve made that known on this site. They are nothing but divisive.

    However, this is the world we’ve created for ourselves. We’re all complicit. So, you can choose to deal with race, as we know it, and its relationship to you; or, if you don’t, someone else will do that for you.

    I didn’t immediately see this as a rejection of “blackness” whatever that is. Nor did I see it as an acceptance of “whiteness” whatever that is. Certainly there are those who identify strongly with one or the other, or reject one or the other. But I can’t say I got that from any of the people in the clip.

    I also don’t think it’s an attempt to somehow marginalize your own experience. As someone said above, it has nothing to do with any of us.

    So, I encourage you to watch the trailer again, with all the interior noise turned off (assumptions, preconceived notions, past experiences, etc), and pay close attention to it.

    I see no benefit in trying to silence their experience. As I stated in my post, this is all part of a much larger discussion that we should keep having, instead of ignoring it, as we do in this country. The more we talk, the more we learn, and the more opportunities we have to deconstruct this thing we call “race,” so much that maybe, eventually, we’ll recognize how meaningless it really is.

    • @Tambay
      Well said!

      The title of this film has a similar vibe as I’m Through With White Girls. Originally I wasn’t too fond of that title either but after watching the movie the content spoke for itself and it ended up being a really good indie film! I think this documentary will go deeper than its seemingly controversial title just as I’m Through With White Girls did.

  • Harlepolis

    Aside from the film title that screams “hidden agenda” to me and the fact that the filmmaker is trying to cater to the divisive machine that black people are ALREADY victims to.

    I think the film itself is pretty intersting, and the interviewees who showed a very normal matter-of-factly attitude differs from what that film’s suggest.

    So yes, people. Don’t be misled.

  • I think that the title works well. It obviously works because it gets people talking. I also think that to call someone black when their mother/father is white/asian/latino/whatever sounds like you’re not giving any vailidity to the relationship that brought about this child in the first place.

    I’ll have to check this trailer out.

  • I think that the documentary is realy disturbing; and I don’t think that it was well put together. It is my opinion that people have the right if they are bi-racial to identify as bi-racial; but, however not to degrade either race. Also,I have met bi-racials that identify as black when it is convenient; such as applying for scholarships etc…
    I am a MGM, like most African Americans. I have Light (reddish complexion) With Sandy Hair and blue eyes. I have encountered so many Caucasions; who just assume that I am bi-racial; and say the most disrespectful and degrading things about Black People; particularly Black Women. And this makes me wonder, do Bi-racial people not correct, Caucasion people, when they make such comments; or do they let it just slide as if it does not matter. Can anyone explain this to me?
    I realy don’t think that this whole so-called movement is realy going to change anything after all! Because, if you have not noticed; The United States, as we we know it; may cease to exist in the next 5 to 10 years. And At that point it will not be about Race; but, about Who you serve GOD OR SATAN!

  • kandykelly

    It must be so painful to have dealt with the Bi-racial issue twenty years or so ago but now…it so many known bi-racial and many have said before being bi-racial is not anything new…the pain we all feel from the effects of racism is what makes someone distance themselves from their ethnicity is the challenge. Being born with 1% of black blood means you have have a heavier cross to bare…I have a newphew who at 5 years old knew that being white was going to make his life easier…so he told us that he was white and he is not even light skin. As a 5 year old he cried for an hour when we told him he was black…African American…WOW. So this documentary doesnt help anyone unless you think you deserve special treatment because the mom or dad you have is white. America made the 1% the law the rule and many of us have a white great grandfather…So if we are going to move forward with this we have to deal with the psychology of it all and false hoods that we insert into everyday lives… To Sherrie when someone is not confident in who they are they let everyone else defind them and sometimes the problem starts with the parents making this child think they are extraspecial or better than bc that is what they are told until they get out into the real world and no one else see why they are special…you are special that way to your parents but to the world …it is about your personality and character that’s where you add value to the world. Who you really are as a person….

  • AP

    .

    Since mention was made of the topic of the ‘house’
    and the ‘field’ slave — I just wanted to note that
    this false concept that so many people have
    – that the lighter-complexioned chattel slaves
    “had it easier” or “thought they were better”
    than the darker-complexioned slaves -– and
    / or largely “relaxed in the big house” while
    the darker-complexioned slaves “suffered
    in the fields” — is very much (just like the
    infamous ‘Willie Lynch Letter’ Hoax) all VERY
    MUCH AN URBAN MYTH (and, is one which,
    in nearly every way that’s possible, completely
    defies the true historical recorded account).

    The historical record shows that
    those enslaved people who were of a
    lighter-complexion (i.e. mulatto-lineage)
    and that were found on the continental
    United States during the antebellum
    (chattel-slavery) era were actually treated
    MUCH WORSE than were those enslaved
    people who were of a darker-complexion.

    In fact, the record shows that most of the White
    people (especially the White women) tended
    to look upon the lighter-complexioned slaves
    as being mere ‘mongrels of miscegenation’
    (resulting largely from the rapes caused by the
    plantation ‘Overseers’); in their disgust at the
    sight of these slaves — insisted that they
    be “banished to the fields”; and also then
    purposefully reserved most of the ‘big house’
    positions (ex. mammy, cook, driver, etc.) for
    the darker-complexioned slaves — who most of
    the White people had perceived as being “more
    loyal, more docile, less competitive, etc.”, and,
    even more important, they were also of a skin tone
    which could never cause them to be seen as being
    any part-’white’ (and even worse, perceived as
    “possibly” also being “a member of the family”
    –as it were– of a given plantation ‘Owner’).

    And this maltreatment was generally even much
    more so the case if the lighter-complexioned
    enslaved person was even remotely ’suspected’
    (by, say, a wife, sister or daughter — who ran
    “the big house”, while a ‘male’ family member
    ran “the plantation”)of possibly being the
    offspring of a given plantation ‘Owner’
    (or his son, or father, or brother,
    or any other male found in the
    plantation ‘Owners’ White family).

    In addition, the few lighter-complexioned enslaved
    people that were actually permitted to do any work
    in the “big house” were (as a punishment for having
    the lowly status of “mongrel” and in order to make
    sure that they did not become “too uppity”) kept
    under a much more severe work supervision (by both
    the White women who ran the plantation household
    and also by the darker-complexioned enslaved people
    who had been placed over the lighter-complexioned
    enslaved people and given various “rewards” in an
    exchange for the promise to ‘keep an eye on’ them)
    than were most of the (more trusted and seemingly
    endeared) darker-complexioned enslaved people.

    Books by Deborah Gray White; Paula Giddings; bell
    hooks; J. California Cooper; William Wells Brown;
    etc. expose the truth about the urban-myth and
    show that the lighter-complexioned enslaved
    people received NO special treatment and were,
    instead (due to being seen as mere “mongrels of
    miscegenation”) usually treated much worse than
    were most darker-complexioned enslaved people.

    The hatred, fear and mistrust that many of
    the antebellum and post-antebellum era White
    southerners felt toward the people who were
    both of a light-complexion (mulatto-lineage)
    and were also chattel-slaves, is very strongly
    presented in the ‘D.W. Griffith’ racist film
    ‘Birth of a Nation’– where pretty much
    all the trouble, tragedy and dangers found
    experienced by White southern families in
    the film is falsely presented as being
    caused by “uppity” Mulattoes who ‘needed to
    be taught “their place” among White people’.
    (i.e. they “needed” to be beaten, raped, lynched,
    etc. by the “proud” White people who had been
    reared to make it clear that they felt
    “no connection” to any non-White person).

    Anyone who would like any additional information
    on this topic can feel free to contact me directly.

    Hope this information is helpful
    & that everyone has a great day.

    – AP (soaptalk@hotmail.com)

    Related Links:

    http://boards.mulatto.org/post/show_single_post?pid=34070161&postcount;=13

    http://boards.mulatto.org/post/show_single_post?pid=34070414&postcount;=14

    .

  • I’m a whole black(both parents are black, and they are still Africans living in the hamlet) and true to what everyone thinks in America i accepted them? as blacks. Some where in Africa they are called Half-caste which is not a race to be proud of either. i even heard they are called mulato, ofirijato etc. But if they feel inferior to be called blacks, i think they have the right to call themselves whoever they are. But i wish both the black and white races reject them so that they can establish their race?-after all the white race has already rejected them and that is why they are crying foul.

  • ETHETIGER

    These comments by people who have the same color parents are beyond funny. You guys are clueless. Just because the title says I am not black does not mean \"we\" are trying to distance ourselves from the black side. You people are the problem, you people have the nerve to say \"we\" are suffering tragic mulatto. Wow. You guys are like the government, you cause the problem then act like you had nothing to do with it. Race is fake but you guys are the ones always trying to make people choose, and it shows through your actions. Wake up you guys are in the matrix. Black and white unite!

    • Midnight

      Thanks for calling us “you people” (united, huh?). Last time I checked, we’re all mixed with something, whether it’s ‘obvious’ or not.

      Also, nothing is more insulting than saying that we’re just like the government. What? Ever heard of those black radical movements that couldn’t give two fucks about the gov’t? Or what white people necessarily think? I’m not so quick to say “black and white unite” either. When I stopped being called a n*gger, I’ll try to see life through your experience.

  • AP Gifts

    .

    Here are links to a couple of
    ‘Mixed-Race’ lineage discussion
    groups that some people here
    might like to visit and join. =D

    http://generation-mixed.ning.com/

    http://mgm-mixed.ning.com/

    http://fgm-mixed.ning.com/

    .