mixed race

Loving Loving Day

Today, June 12th, is Loving Day, the day that interracial marriage was legalized in the U.S. It marks the Supreme Court's decision to allow Richard and Mildred Loving to marry with the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia.

Prior to that, widespread marriage between people considered to be of different "races" (mostly white or black ) could not marry. There were exceptions, though: interracial marriages such as that of my own grandfather and grandmother were allowed, as Latinos, even if they were very dark-skinned, were racially categorized by the Census as white.


There was also a lot of mixed white and Asian marriages before 1967, especially on the West Coast and in Hawaii.

Today, around forty years later, there are many mixed or multi-racial Americans that are visible and lauded in the media. Soledad O'Brien's family is one of them, and is Jessica Alba's family.

This is part of the family portrait of America. Gotta love Loving Day!

Mechanomorphism, or biking Los Angeles

I did the LA River Ride this past Sunday, and it was an incredible experience. Sure, the event was fun, but the best part was the astonishing realization I had while riding. Somewhere around Hollenbeck Park, I thought…my body can be a machine.

It was mechanomorphism, along the LA River.

Growing up in Los Angeles, the car was always the way in which I knew my environment. That changed a little bit as I got into running as a teenager, but the extent of those journeys was four or five miles. Not twenty. It was exhilarating to bike along the river and see what I had (actually) never seen before up close: the flora and fauna of the river, the cute little homesteads along it, replete with fruit trees and roosters. I had never known there were birds in the LA River, much less how physically close the arts-y area of Los Feliz is to hard-struck northeast LA neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights. It was cool to actually see who lived there, and share the same bike path as residents as they went on their morning walks.

It was almost like touring some sort of living museum of revitalized Los Angeles, powered by your own two legs. When you cross a street with your body, you can feel distance and proximity in a way that the media, education, or curriculum can never teach you. You see that old Filipino janitors go to the same McDonalds as old white farmers, and they both like pancakes on Sundays.

That’s what’s radical about this exercise: seeing – and BEING – in your city in a whole new way. Inhabiting space that was formerly deemed uninhabitable.

Crossing Cesar Chavez Avenue, I felt so free and so light! Not at all like I did when I commuted; I wasn’t burning any money, only calories. And the Downtown buildings looked so majestic and tall. You somehow see things more clearly on a bike, even though you’re stripped away of the steel protection of a car. So much of Los Angeles is about filtration – from movie screen to viewer, from driver to car window.

Without a filter, being in the city is a much more intimate and enjoyable experience.

It creates this inspiring confidence, powering yourself over streets that are normally only traversed by cars. You create evidence that it is possible to mechanize our society in new ways – power ourselves off of oxygen, and not foreign (or national!) oil. We don’t have to dump money into a fixture that clogs our transportation system and ruins our health. Besides, if there was ever a bike-able major urban metropolis, it’s probably this one. The weather is temperate, and the LA Basin is mostly flat.

So in the city of Bladerunner, the most radical thing you can do is simply go back to the future: a car-less future.

It’s a privilege to know the city you’re from, and really understand its history from tree trunk to skyscraper to home to riverbed. Los Angeles is a cool place, especially if you take the time to know about it. It’s good to see each other, and see our city, more clearly. And if more and more people do this sort of thing, maybe the new generation of Angelenas (thirty years my junior) can see things differently.

Castizo Closets

It's confirmed: Arnold Schwarzenegger's "love child" is half Mexican. Given that he slept with a member of his domestic household staff, I figured that the woman was Latina, and turns out she is. Mildred Patricia Baena, to be exact. Somewhere in Southern California a certain Chicano kid has been smirking on the couch while his friends unknowingly joked, "I'll be back!".
While it's disappointing, a high-level politician cheating on his wife is too normal to really be newsworthy. (After all, nearly all high-level politicos from DC to CA - Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa - have checked that box.) What is newsworthy is how old-school this is.
Schwarzenegger having a love-child with his Mexican maid is straight 19th century. It's casta California, a color-based caste and power system in which European landowners often had children with indigenous women who worked in or around their homes. That's the mission system every California 3rd grader has to re-create with styrofoam as a class project. While Anglo settlers rejected this loose, Latin American social system that allowed for racial mixing, it's a deeply ingrained idea in California's subconscious.
And is perhaps even more so now, because NAFTA has turned the best intentions of both the Minute Men and the reconquista (reconquest) activists on their heads: American corporations have rendered Mexico economically uninhabitable, pushing hundreds of thousands of Mexican nationals back into what was Northern Mexico just 150 years ago.
Who knew that of all people, Republicans would make the reconquista real. California is half Mexican now, and its "centrist" governor has sealed the deal.
In californio California, people wouldn't have blinked if a blond governor had a dark-haired son in the figurative closets of his large estate. Maybe Arnold's most famous line is really the voice of casta California: I'll be back!

Hapa Pop Show

As per usual, Brazil is beating the U.S. at its own cultural game. Hapa musician Curumin, a mixed Japanese Brazilian, gets the sound of (inter) American life right.

Curumin's music ranges from Samba Japa, which layers auto-tuned Japanese chants on modern beats, to the crunk, 90's club style Caixa Preta.

I don't know who the American equivalent of Curumin is. Who does pop like this? Where can we hear Chinese L.A., or Pilipino San Francisco, in fun young music? 

Let's get going. I want to hear it.  Cuz serious musicianship + playful mixing = la cosa nostra.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TEtoRbJBtM]

Dianne Sawyer and the Census

I had the privilege of going on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer on national Census Day to talk about the complexities of filling out the Census for people of Latino (or part Latino) descent. I went on behalf of the organization I work for, Voto Latino. 

The April 1st, 2010 segment asks the question, 'Can the census form adequately capture a concept as complex as racial identity?' The answer: not really. Check out what these castiza airwaves have to say about who the new national American 'me' is...

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLXeOIOBVnE]

Jessica and George

Earlier last month, George Lopez interviewed Jessica Alba on his new TLC show, during which he made public the results of a DNA test he ran on her to find out her "real ethnicity".

The footage is painful to watch, as is the remedial effect it’ll have on understandings of race and ethnicity in Hollywood and beyond.

Apparently we're going backwards here; maybe Ellis Island-type head measurings are next. This is not 21st century 'post-racial' America, but rather plain, old-fashioned, institutionalized racism.

Perhaps what’s most disappointing is to hear this from a Chicano hard-liner  bent on the politics of inclusion. Latino culture is built on mixture, and for Lopez to do this is to shoot that legacy in the foot.

Lopez looks all but ecstatic to tell her, "Jessica Alba: You're whiter than Larry David." (The same - rather questionable? - DNA tests that revealed that Alba is 13% Native American while prominent Jewish director Larry David is 37% Native American.)

Jessica Alba is not whiter than Larry David, and that's because she doesn’t look it.

People are treated based on how they look, and Jessica Alba was put in ESL as a child because she was brown. (Her teachers assumed she only spoke Spanish.)

I doubt Larry David had a similar experience.

Let’s face it: genes do not always equal phenotype. And a lot of people know this. Growing up in and around mixed white/Latino families, kids like me thought it a funny little secret that we could all play together – some with blond hair, some with black hair – and have the rest of the world not know that we were actually all of the same “racial” mix.

If Lopez is going to do DNA tests, he needs to at least acknowledge that they don’t mean what he thinks they do. Whatever it is he sought to prove, the only thing he will end up proving is that this type of “only if” Latino belonging is exactly what made Jessica Alba reluctant to identify as Latina in the first place.

The sort of “only if” litmus tests - the only if you’re Latino ‘all day, every day’, the only if you speak Spanish, tests - is what disqualified Jessica Alba from Hispanicity in Southern California but made her Latina to everyone outside of it. In the greater U.S., to be half Mexican is to be Mexican, but in many places in Southern California to be half-white, half-Mexican is to be white.

Big difference.

How do people expect her to accept something she is constantly rejected from? (And okay, maybe I’m partial to her because she has a castiza baby. But she can never seem to win Hollywood’s race game, and I don’t think she needs to.)

And why does someone have their own show if their favorite thing to say is, “You can’t play in my sandbox!” on network late night?

Please. In “GLo” terms, that is so MP: más puto.

I mean, where can he go from here? Run a DNA test on former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and announce to everyone that this Latin American man is not Latino because he's East Asian? Or better yet, run a DNA test on himself? What would Lopez do if his results said he was part European - or, as he put it to Jessica Alba, part 'Oh My God'? Say...oh, my God!?!


- Go to state schools
- Are big on cheddar cheese
- Wear hoop earrings
- Like football
- Drive Hondas
- Drive Toyotas

- Buy PC's
- Don't kiss on the cheek
- Buy whole wheat tortillas
- Are big on biceps
- Have a cousin in the army
- Smoke cigarettes
- Are un-phased by bankruptcy
- Never think about immigration

- Only mark 'Hispanic' on enrollment forms if they need scholarship money
- Don’t speak Spanish
- Don’t even speak Spanglish

- Are the Southwestern creoles of the New America