17 January 2016

The Struggle Of Being Mixed Race - discussion video

The other day I encountered this video
made by Buzzfeed called The Struggle Of Being Mixed Race, where mixed race
people talk about the struggle of being who they are.

The individuals in the video mainly talk about how difficult it is for them to feel belonged in different communities based on the fact that they are more than one ethnicity. By being mixed race, they don´t feel fitting in an "all white community", as well as an exclusively "mono-racial" community.
They say things like "people talk to me in Spanish on the street just because I look Hispanic" or "people never got my ethnicity right".

Now, I don´t know at which population they have directed this video, but it only inspired contradiction in me.

As you may know, I come from a Russian speaking household but was born in Uzbekistan. My heritage is in fact mostly Ukranian, but my grandfather is Uzbek, which makes my facial features very Eurasian. On top of that I grew up in Israel where the majority of the population is Hebrew speaking, but where many people of the Russian ethnicity can be found as well.

And to be honest with you, I find the video complete bullshit. In fact it astonished me how such a fascinating feature like a mixed race can cause people such discomfort, confusion and disconnection.

Because of course you would feel all those when you are mixed race!!! What do you expect?  But at the same time, why do these people have such an anxious need to find their place in a community based on race when they grew up in America, a country where everyone is mixed anyway.

From an outsider´s perspective, is does look like the US has this weird racial separation, from "white neighborhoods" to "black colleges" and to be honest it freaks me out. But despite the difference, aren´t people aware that most of the American population is mixed race, and that´s pretty much what a country of immigrants is all about? I am putting the hatred and racism aside here, I am just raising an eyebrow that after all this, you still are "struggling" because you are identifying "mixed race"
just by the way you look on the outside? 
There is much, much more to being mixed race than your looks. Those individuals are English speakers, and they feel isolated because of their facial features?

Well, let me tell you something about how I identify being mixed race:

During my life in Israel I always saw myself as different from others, and it all came down not to how I looked but rather the language and mentality I had at home. At home we spoke Russian, we had a Russian mentality, Russian tradition etc. With the passing years, my parents knew Hebrew better and their socialization within the Israeli community grew deeper, so when my little brother was born things began to change.
But when I was little I was well aware that the things we have at home are different than what is outside. Outside we are Israelis, at home we are Russian. And that was damn ok with me.

Moreover, being mixed race for me meant talking to my Ukranian grandmother and  Uzbek grandfather on the phone every couple of months and still hear him stumble with his Russian after all these years and finding it adorable.
Being mixed race meant trips to Uzbekistan every 3-4 years to see a bunch of relatives I had difficulty identifying with not only because they claimed to know me since I was -this- little while I had zero recollection of that, but also because they all were of Uzbek ethnicity, looked different, talked different (in broken Russian of course), lived different etc etc. And after a month enduring that I would come back to Israel living the usual dual-mentality at home and outside.

And don´t let me get started on how the Israeli culture pretends to acknowledge the Russian (or any other) community, how my (and mostly Boris´) last name can never be pronounced correctly and how people assume things about me based on stereotypes regarding my racial and lingual heritage. But this perhaps is one of the few things which are comparable to the "racial struggle" described in the video.

So this in a nutshell is what being mixed race means to me. It is in fact not a question of race at all, but of mentality, tradition, socialization and most of all: language. In my case, looks make very little of that. But for the record, I don´t look Jewish either (cause I´m not lol). And that is another story for another post.

Are you mixed race? Do you know people who face "mixed race struggles"? What did you think of the video?


And don´t get me started on how I am damn happy to have all the above a part of me. Which is another veeeery long post for another time.


  1. I have a friend whose great-great-grandmother was from Armenia and according to her words, these genes went silent in her family and suddenly emerged in the looks of said friend. She's an unbelievable beauty, like those from Caucasus, but you'd never guess it's not one of her parents who is not Polish, and she told me she often felt out of place as a child, because everybody in the neighbourhood and schools viewed her as a Gypsy and she envied other children their Slavic ashen-blonde hair and blue eyes. When she finally learned about her Armenian ancestor, she started to take pride from it, learning language, listening to music from that country and so on.
    I'm slightly jealous of people like her or you. I'm a pure Slav, all of my friends except her are pure Slavs too and it's boring XD Diversity, no matter if ethnic or not, makes people interesting and mixed people have easier, first-hand access to traditions and mentalities from different cultures.

    1. that´s exactly what I´m talking about! I am sometimes jealous of people who have all their relatives in one country where they can be close to them no matter what. I never had weekends at my grandparents´ place and I wish I´d have the money to go visit my family more often :)

  2. Godness, you put words on things I have thought a lot about lately. What is it with Americans and their obsessions with race. In my opinion race is an awful word, why compare humans like they were dog breeds?? I have read so many articles about american people who are differently treated, depending on skincolour etc, people whos ancestors have lived in the same country for many generations. I also read an article that people who moves from America finally feels they are treated like an American and not "Afro-american" or "Asian-American" etc.

    1. I personally find the terms "asian american" and so on not so negative since i interpret them in a socialization perspective. I could call myself russian-israeli (which is an existing term) because thats basically the environment i grew up with. But prescribing charachteristics based on race is horrible.

  3. You're totally right about everyone in America being mixed race. My family has a mixed enough background, and they've been here long enough, that I just identify as "American," and not anything hyphenated. I would say that the struggles of language and culture that you mention above apply to a lot of recently immigrated Americans too.
    The majority of us aren't fixated on race, and find other ways to have the "us versus them" experience (maybe why our politics are so fucked up) but there will always be those who feel differently about it than the majority. Unfortunately, that minority is more outspoken and extreme, and will always be the one getting the press. :/

    1. Thanks for sharing your point of view. I think a lot of the times people take cultural and behavioral attributes of one race and make them shine in a negative light, so that the majority of the population would follow suit. Israel has this as well.