Undercover Sistah Day on Suits

On Wednesday night, two of my guilty pleasures came together… well, three, actually. Suits + Pretty Little Liars + two of my favorite undercover sistahs, Meghan Markle and Troian Bellisario.

Claire and Rachel face off (Getty Images)

 

 

picture courtesy of Getty Images

I know I’ve mentioned many times how I enjoy being the “Biracial Whisperer.” PLL‘s Troian Bellisario and Suit‘s Meghan Markle are two of my favorite examples of biracial incognegroes — beautiful biracial women (each has a black mother and white father—like my girls; Troian’s mom is actress Deborah Pratt) who many people are shocked to find out are black [though at least Suits has helped uncover that mystery by revealing in season 3 that Rachel Zane, Meghan Markle’s character, is biracial].

In a Yahoo Entertainment interview this week about Claire’s return to Suits, the interviewer mentions to Troian how much she and Meghan look alike, which adds an interesting layer to the story that Rachel and Claire have dated the same man [“Mike Ross,” Claire’s ex and Rachel Zane’s current fiancé on the show, who is played by Patrick J. Adams, Troian’s fiancé in real life. Wrap your mind around that one]. They kind of do. Observe:

Meghan Markle on Suits (Getty Images)

 

Troian Bellisario

 

It was both awesome and weird seeing these two share screen time together. I was still riding off the high of the Pretty Little Liars summer finale [OMG, was that crazy, or what???], and in waltzes Claire / Spencer / Troian. Wild! Although I would love to see more of them together hanging out, becoming BFFs, braiding each other’s hair, whatever), I won’t hold my breath, seeing how Troian’s a little busy running from some new A every season.

Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk (AKA How I Spent My Winter Vacation)

I know it’s been a slow year on this blog, so for those of you who have stuck around, let me first thank you. Whether you’re old or new here, welcome (welcome back) and Happy New Year to all!

Honestly, it’s been hard to write more than rants on Facebook walls or quick blurbs on Twitter. My heart has been really heavy. There have been times where I have just been at my breaking point. I’m fearful of the world we are leaving our children. I truly am. And though I’ve kept on a brave face for my girls and even still found time to find some levity in the world [moment of silence for Joe Manganiello’s singlehood] and have kept myself busy with craft project after craft project, whenever there was silence I couldn’t fill, one thought always came back: we are fucked.
So I could just keep being afraid of the silence, or I could do something.
Pop Culture Dad is from St. Louis. [Yeah, I know]. Between the events in Ferguson and some other things, the likelihood of us making it to our annual Christmas trip this year was low like a girl in a Flo Rida song. But… it’s family, you know? And we only get to see them twice a year. But PCD and I decided that if we were going to go into the belly of the best, some good was going to have to come of it.
I had been following the action on Twitter and Facebook since the very beginning, but realized as Christmas was approaching that I didn’t actually know where to find information on how to get involved. I asked around and got several references for groups looking for lawyers to help out. I got in touch with those groups, and they all said they would get back to me… Then we got to St. Louis and… I just waited. No calls. I called again. I was told they would get back to me. My plan to be part of a solution was being thwarted. And, quite honestly, I felt a little depressed about it. In my head, our entire week in St. Louis was going to be filled with one rally or jail visit after another with us shouting to the family, “Come along or we’ll just have to catch you later!” In reality, it was basically like any other trip to the city: family, food, movie, Magic House. Then finally the morning before we went home to Texas, my phone rang with a text alert:

TODAY (SATURDAY), 2PM: STL’s United We Stand Silent March. Meet at Union Station downtown (18th and Market).

Finally! I informed Pop Culture Dad that, despite all the things we needed to do that day and all the promises we made to family, we were going. He was totally game, but we were also unprepared. On the way there, we ran into Michaels and grabbed posters and markers. The Pop Culture Girls decided they wanted to do their own posters. They did not, however, know how to spell “Black Lives Matter” on their own. So I wrote it out for them and told them they could follow it. Little Diva (being six and all) did a pretty great job. Super Girl got all of the letters, buuuuut, well, they weren’t exactly in any particular order. So she allowed me to make her a new sign, and she decorated it.

Super Girl and Pop Culture Dad
Little Diva made her own sign (“MY LIFE MATTERS”). Mommy probably should have told her yellow on pink doesn’t really show from far away.

This is the adorable sweatshirt hiding under those huge coats. It was far too cold to show them off.
Despite our rushing, we made it to the meeting place in time and ready to go. It was cold (particularly for us Southern folk), and it was rainy. However, this group of a little over 100 people was not deterred. We walked arm-in-arm, silently (except for the children…), with our mouths covered with the names of a victim or victims of police and para-police violence, down Market Street toward the St. Louis Arch. As you can see in my pictures, this isn’t just a group of black people. This is truly St. Louis UNITED. There were people of various races and ethnicities. The ages ranged from 0 to somewhere in the septuagenarian range. There were people of various physicalities and physical disabilities.
You notice how that microphone says “5” (as in “News 5”)? The same reporter during those interviews later stated during the 5 p.m. Channel 5 newscast that he could not confirm that there were protesters in the area. Apparently the fact that he was with us from beginning to end was not enough to confirm our presence. See, people? This is why you need to have a healthy skepticism and distrust of mainstream media.
Now here’s where trolls on Twitter and people within the Arch who have unrecognized and unresolved race bias issues differ from what people outside the Arch will tell you. Trolls on Twitter who were never there have been arguing that the group was violent, raging, and vandalized the Arch (seriously). Anyone with half a brain knows that isn’t true. In fact, you can witness it for yourself. I videoed various parts of the protest, and if you look on Twitter for #STLunited, you will see several people who live-blogged or later videostreamed parts of the protest. In addition to what you can see for yourself, here’s what I can tell you: three of the protesters actually went inside the Arch to use the restroom. Once inside, security had noticed there were protesters, and those women were locked inside. When you hear us chanting “Open the gates!” it started because people were asking for security to let those women out. By the way, the Arch is a free, federal landmark open to the public. Can they restrict entry and exit for security concerns? Of course. Is prohibiting a group from exercising their First Amendment rights in a nonviolent manner in a way that doesn’t otherwise violate laws something that can be done at a federal landmark? Honestly, I don’t know [I haven’t done the research on that yet]. It’s a non-issue anyway. Because I think there is reasonable disagreement as to whether there would have been a security risk (probably something as little as a fire hazard) from allowing a marching, chanting group of 100+ people inside. I’m not saying I agree that there was a risk; I just agree that I see both arguments, and so we don’t even really get to the First Amendment issue. 
What I can tell you, however, is that this protest was most certainly non-violent. As I mentioned, this was a varied group, which included a lot of families. We had a woman in a wheelchair, a man on crutches, etc. This group marched in total silence [again, minus the children, who don’t really get that whole “silent” part of the silent protest] for nearly two hours before we reached the Arch. Yes, there were guys in Anonymous masks. And, honestly, the most annoying thing they did the entire time was smoke in close proximity to children and senior citizens. There was only one person in this entire group who raised my antennae, and I was side-eyeing and closely watching that guy the entire time. And, yes, this guy was the one who, after chants I wasn’t too uncomfortable having my children hear, decided to lead a much smaller group in a round of “Fuck the Police.” That’s one guy, out of over 100. There’s always one. And that one person is not the group. He was not representative of the group at all. In fact, he didn’t even march in close proximity to the rest of us (and I have the picture to prove that too).
The police, who kept a safe distance from the group (because no crimes were broken, HELLO) stay close to the guy I was side-eyeing.
The Arch was not vandalized. We created a “memorial” using the pieces of colored tape that had previously been on our mouths. Easily removable. Does not destroy property. It is no different from when people leave signs, flowers, and other memorabilia on public property. Anyone who calls that vandalism is a moron (and probably also an overreaching racist, but I digress…). As I mentioned on the Pop Culture Mom Facebook page, I’m a government attorney. Do you really think I would participate in or encourage any sort of activity that would violate federal law? Of course not. Any suggestion otherwise is preposterous.
tape bearing the names of victims of police violence
Correction of some of the falsities I’ve heard aside, this was a beautiful moment. I actually cannot find adequate words to express how moved I was by the entire experience. Seeing all of these different people come together was amazing. People who didn’t even know each other and hadn’t even learned each other’s names, were linking their arms and hands to stand united. People were helping each other (picking up the wheelchair together, offering food, holding things to allow someone to tend to children, checking on the children and talking to them, etc.). This total group of mostly strangers came together for one common reason—wanting to make sure that law enforcement and the general citizenry realize that black lives matter too—and it was amazing
Super Girl has the best seat in the house
Arms linked marching toward the Arch

 

Strangers united for a common good

Even more than the experience itself, I was so glad to have shared it with the Pop Culture Girls. Due to all of the craziness going on and the unavoidable conversations in our house that Little Diva is entirely too smart (and too nosey) to miss. I had to have “the talk” with her earlier than anticipated. We had the talk over Thanksgiving. More on that later. But suffice to say, even at six, she understands the gross unfairness in treating people differently because of their skin color, and she can’t believe that there are adults who think it is perfectly fine to support a broken system that systematically treats “the other” unfairly. So, despite the fact that she was not exactly down for all that walking (and none of us were down for the cold and the hail), Little Diva was glad she did the protest. One of the gentlemen who had been gathering everyone together when we initially arrived asked Little Diva at the end what she thought of everything, and she answered “Pretty good. Pretty good for my first protest.”
“Pretty good for my first protest.”
I’m proud of my kids for sticking with the elements and trudging along. I’m proud of my oldest daughter for understanding these issues that are so much bigger than anyone should have to understand at six years old [and, sadly, it turns out she “gets it” a lot better than many adults I’ve seen online]. I’m proud of my husband (and his entire family, amazingly) for recognizing and trying to fight against his white privilege to make a better world for, not just our children, but every child in this country. I’m proud of everyone who was there. 
Every time I get overwhelmed with despair, I look at the pictures from this march and I realize that there are people out there fighting to make a difference. I’m not sure if their work will change everything, but they’re bound to change some minds. Every little bit counts!

Originally posted on Blogger (http:/www.popculturemom.com) http://ift.tt/1vHdPR9

And I Shall Buy a Thousand Swiffers!

Have you seen the new Swiffer commercial?? The one with Zack Rukavina,the guy who lost his arm to cancer, and his beautiful multiracial family?? I almost cried tears of joy when I saw it this morning. We already have a Swiffer mop, but we will never buy generic refills again. More money to Swiffer and its wonderful ad team!!

I am the Biracial Whisperer (or Maybe I have Biracialdar?)

I was watching ‘Suits’ this morning and actually paying close attention for a change. There was a close up of Rachel (played by Meghan Markle) taking the LSATs. I saw her freckles and hair and immediately and excitedly blurted (out loud, sadly), “OMG! She’s biracial!” For some reason, I always had assumed she was Hispanic, even though “Zane” (her character’s last name) isn’t a particularly Latino name. But there wasn’t any mistaking the HD closeup. I Googled “Meghan Markle biracial,” and BOOM, there it was. Just like my kids, her mom is black, and her father is white of Irish descent.

Meghan Markle and her mother (from her Instagram)

Mariah Carey… Jennifer Beals… Rashida Jones… Soledad O’Brien…  Vin Diesel… Wentworth Miller… and now Rachel Markle. Even before seeing some “OMG! She looks white, but SURPRISE!!” article, I could tell they were biracial. Look, I know I am not the only one. There are probably a lot of you reading this going, “Duh! I knew too!” But, just like when a celebrity comes out as gay or lesbian, there’s something oddly wonderful and fantastic to me about finding the closeted (whether it is simply because the issue has never been raised or addressed because here’s no necessity to it or because a record company or TV producer intentionally wanted to leave the impression that the performer is white) biracial people.

I also get people who don’t understand my excitement about these discoveries. But for those people, when someone asks you if or implies that you are the nanny of your own child, you’ll get it.

 

 

 

 

Parenthood: "She’s So White!"

While I was party planning this afternoon, I started watching last night’s episode of ‘Parenthood’. Barely five minutes in, I fell over laughing when Crosby held up his newly-born daughter and exclaimed with shock, “She’s so white!” And 10 minutes in, I nearly died again when Grandpa Braverman said, “She’s even lighter than she was in the hospital!” and then expressed his confusion at the term light-skinned. Ah… All of this is so familiar to parents of biracial children.

Pop Culture Dad and I had the same reaction when Little Diva was born. I mean, we knew she would likely be born much more pale than she would eventually end up. Many black children (particularly with lighter-skinned parents) and most biracial kids are. My doula with Little Diva has biracial grandchildren, and she tried to prep us for the possibility before we went into the delivery room. This wasn’t an earth shattering revelation. I was a pale child, and I’ve been around plenty of black and biracial newborns. I don’t know any black person who would be particularly shocked by the revelation that some black and biracial babies will be darn-near white at birth.
What Pop Culture Dad and I were not prepared for, however, was that our then-blue eyed (now green), pale child, would pretty much stay pale—very pale—for years. My multi-ethnic mother comes from a long line of “high yella” women. My dad’s mother was also very beige. But I’m brown. And my mother-in-law is a pretty deep tan. My husband isn’t even that pale himself. Somehow, though, for the first three-and-a-half years of her life, our baby girl was lighter than her father.
This was a real problem for me when Little Diva was a baby. Despite the fact that she looks just like my toddler pictures, when it was just the two of us, people often asked me if she was my child or just assumed I was the nanny. I was so glad when she learned to talk and started calling me “Mommy” in public, so the people who were staring and trying to figure things out would look away. I also bought her several shirts that said things like “She’s my mommy, not the nanny!” or which hadn’t picture of a vanilla/chocolate ice cream cone baring the slogan “Swirled!” Even now that Little Diva has (finally) got a little bit of a tan, her skin color is often a topic of conversation among people. Annoying…
 
All of this “nanny” and “OMG, she looks white” [she does not] stuff is perhaps why immediately after giving birth to Super Girl, I exclaimed, “Oh, thank goodness! She has some color!” No one wants to be called the nanny.
 
I’ll be interested to see as the season plays out, if Jasmine will experience any of the “Uh… Is that… um… your baby,… or, uh… are you the, um….?” nonsense that so many black mothers of biracial (or just light-skinned) babies deal with. If there are any black writers (or white writers with biracial families) on staff, I imagine it’s coming.
 

 

Two Things Y’all Apparently Didn’t Know About Wentworth Miller

 

As you have probably heard, yesterday Wentworth Miller told the St. Petersburg International Film Festival [I’m paraphrasing here]: “Thanks but no thanks for your invitation to appear at your festival, but as long as your country is oppressing gay people like me, you can go f*** yourselves.” And people, gay and straight alike, lost their damn minds.

I was (and still am) perplexed. I mean, didn’t everyone know he’s gay by now? I thought that closet door had long been open and shut behind him. He didn’t have some huge coming out cover story on People or anything, but most people don’t. He’s never tried to lie about his sexual orientation and never had a beard. Heck, I remember having this discussion with some women in my former mommy group four years ago. And that discussion revealed another thing those women apparently didn’t know about Wentworth Miller (and I found a lot of people were as in the dark as they were).
So here are two facts that I have known about Wentworth Miller since his Prison Break days (even though I never watched that show; I only admired his beautiful face and body), and which I have wrongly assumed everyone knew:
1. Wentworth Miller is gay. 
Here’s a picture with his boyfriend (actor Luke MacFarlane) from 2007 described back then in an article as him coming out. 
2. Wentworth Miller is black (well, half-black).1

An old yearbook picture of WM with hair

El Hottie with his uncle and father
Bam! Minds blown.

 

Well, unless you were paying attention the past few years, in which case, this is all duuuuuuuuh!

FN 1. Also, FYI, other black/half-black celebrities that no one seems to know (incognegro?) are: Jennifer Beals, Vin Diesel, Rashida Jones, Soledad O’Brien, Slash, Mariah Carey, Pete Wentz, Cash Warren, Carol Channing…

Keyshia Cole and the One-Drop Rule

So apparently R&B artist Keyshia Cole started a s***-storm of controversy recently when she went on BET's 106 & Park and claimed that she wasn't initially sure how she felt about being on “Black Women Rock,” because she's biracial. Madame Noire asked, “I think it’s fine if she wants to point out that she’s bi-racial, but one, where is this coming from, and two, are you not still black by all one drop rule standards? And are you really going to act like the rest of society doesn't still see you as a black woman and you can now no longer understand the need to celebrate black girls doing good things. C’mon now?”. While I agree with M.N. in part, I can't go for the one-drop rule assessment.


For those unfamiliar, the one-drop rule is the U.S. law (and only the U.S.; no other country is so backwards), dating back to Jim Crow, which states that one-drop of negro blood makes someone black. As you can imagine, this law was invented largely to prevent miscegenation (that's “race mixing”). Not really sure how enforceable that was a hundred of years ago without discernible proof of one's lineage, as the one-drop rule resulted in lots of people “passing” for white in order to benefit from the more favorable status afforded by law and society in general.

Seeing as Jim Crow laws have been eradicated, and we live in an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic society, I don't really see a benefit to the one-drop rule in today's society. In fact, the one-drop rule seems to be invoked by black folks more than any other group. Yes, we generally tend to claim everyone and their grandmama as black. 

While there are many bi- or multi-racial/ethnic celebrities who are perceived as black merely because of their appearance–and to some degree because of their associations [Pres. Barack Obama, Halle Berry, Derek Jeter, Alicia Keys, Dwayne Johnson, Tracey Ellis-Ross, Tia and Tamara Mowrey, Bob Marley, Carmelo Anthony, Lenny Kravitz, Lisa Bonet, Maya Rudolph, Faith Evans, Jimi Hendrix, Jordin Sparks, Kelis, Shemar Moore, and Stacy Dash just to name a few], there are also those bi-/multi-racial/ethnic whose appearances defy a label of just “black”–even to the point where many don't even know they are biracial until they come out of the color closet, so to speak [Mariah Carey, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Beals, Vin Diesel, Cash Warren, Wentworth Miller, Santino Rice and G&R's Slash are just a few who come to mind who have elicited the “OMG! I didn't know s/he was black!” response]. And what about the people who are (allegedly) “black” so far down the line that it shouldn't even matter, since no reasonable person would ever perceive them as multi-racial, let alone “black” [thinking of, for example, People's Sexiest Man 2012, Channing Tatum, who is reportedly 1/16 black on his father's side]?

I personally think it is pretty pointless to assign someone a mono-racial identity for the comfort of one group who thinks that celebrities should acknowledge their blackness and only their blackness. Look, I get why we would or should want to do it in some circumstances. Without the one-drop rule, instead of America having its first black president, we have our first half-black POTUS. Without the one-drop rule, there has never been a great black pro-golfer (not that we have a great one now, in either case, right?), just a half-black pro-golfer. However, self-identification–particularly when that self-identification is grounded in some reality–is important, and even if we allow someone their (right to a) half-black or quarter-black identity, we have still made cultural progress. President Obama self-identifies as black, because he is viewed as and treated as a black man [No worries! We still have our first “black” president–sixth if you still insist we go by the one-drop rule]. However, he acknowledges his biracial status, because to do so is an insult to the white mother and grandparents who raised him [as opposed to his African father who was largely non-present in his life]. Halle Berry was raised by her white mother, but that same mother raised her as a “black woman,” because she realized that is how most of society would perceive her [And, similarly, Halle has insisted that her one-quarter black daughter is also a black woman by society's standards–despite her light hair and blue eyes]. Mariah Carey, for reasons unknown, self-identifies as black, and occasionally as “tri-racial.” Dwayne Johnson self-identifies as both black and Samoan. Tiger Woods self-identifies as Cablanasian (seriously)–and that's his prerogative. The thing is, asking someone to self-identify as only one race–regardless of their life or familial experiences is not the business of the outside world.

My daughters are too young to understand the concept of race, let alone begin to self-identify. Pop Culture Preschooler only knows racial differences from a crayon-box perspective. She has declared before that she, daddy, and her sister have white faces, and mommy has a brown-face. Of course, even on the crayon-box perspective, she is incorrect, and we have corrected her that she and daddy have beige faces, while her little sister and mommy have brown faces (or, more accurately, Pop Culture Toddler2 has a tan face); but ultimately none of this will prove important as she grows up. People will put her into one box or another, and regardless of what box or boxes she checks for herself, someone will always question her choices. If PCP checks the “black” box with her pale skin, green eyes, and naturally highlighted hair (though with black features she received from me), there will be those who question whether she is “black enough.” If she checks the “white” box, many will accuse her of being self-loathing [no lie, I may have that fear myself]. If she checks both boxes, then there will still be some people [including the State of Texas on the forms we filled out at the hospital!] who will consider that an unacceptable answer, and forcing her to choose only one–more often than not, the “black” box. In short, no matter what she chooses, she will lose before she's even began. Pop Culture Toddler2 has the opposite problem. Even though her features and hair came from her Caucasian, American Irish father, she undoubtedly has my coloring. Without seeing both parents present, most people don't even realize she's biracial, and when she is only with my husband, people are as confused as they were when I used to be alone with Pop Culture Preschooler as a baby–yes, I was actually confused as the nanny on several occasions. While few strangers would probably question if PCT2 self-identified as “black,” any other classification may raise eyebrows and accusations. This would, of course, be unfair, because she, just like her older sister, is very much a product of both of her parents.

We will cross these bridges when we get to them. In any event, I don't think that the “one-drop rule” is the way to go, because it is not up to society to decide how a bi- or multi-racial person views him or herself (no matter how much it may irk us). Not to mention, it just gets into absurd and ridiculous results when you are talking about someone who can barely trace their black heritage, who would never be identified by society in general as a black person, and who will never know or experience any amount of discrimination as they would if they were actually a minority.

Now… as far as Keyshia Cole… though her answer was thought-provoking insofar as the general topic, it was quite a head-scratcher for me. Why? Well, because Keyshia Cole doesn't know who her daddy is. By every report, her mother was a drug addict, and didn't know who she was with during her crack-fueled binges. There has been a lot of speculation about who her father is, but no definitive answers. Maybe he was a black man, maybe he wasn't. But the bottom line is Keyshia neither knows who her father is nor has she had an experience of being raised in a multi-cultural household or society. She's an R&B artist who is largely unknown to anyone who doesn't follow R&B. Moreover, she gave this statement on Black Entertainment Television, which is… well… the only channel that plays her videos. So… you know…. Self-identification really only works when, as stated above, there's some basis in reality. I mean, I could call myself half-Vietnamese, but that doesn't make it true or reflective of my life experiences.

Ignoring the Keyshia Cole craziness, what about the rest of you? What do you think about the one-drop rule and self-identification? Should we leave it up to individuals to (within reason) identify themselves; or is there some societal value in forcing the “black” label on half-, quarter- and 1/16th black individuals, regardless of how they seem themselves?