Actor Taye Diggs recently said he prefers to label his biracial son “mixed” instead of a black, igniting a long-standing and contentious debate about how some people of color should identify themselves.
Diggs has a 6-year-old son with his ex-wife, actress Idina Menzel, who is white. He recently wrote a children’s book inspired by his son called “Mixed Me!.” He explained in Nov. 13 interview with theGrio why he prefers the term mixed to black, which is often how the offspring of black and white interracial relationships choose to be identified.
“When you [describe biracial kids as black], you risk disrespecting that one half of who you are and that’s my fear. I don’t want my son to be in a situation where he calls himself black and everyone thinks he has a black mom and a black dad, and then they see a white mother, they wonder, ‘Oh, what’s going on,’” said Diggs. The “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” star went on to say he also doesn’t necessarily consider President Barack Obama, who has a white mother and African father, to be black.
“As African-Americans we were so quick to say okay he’s black he’s black, and then there were the white people who were afraid to say he was biracial because who knows. Everybody refers to him as the first black president, I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying that it’s interesting. It would be great if it didn’t matter and that people could call him mixed. We’re still choosing to make that decision, and that’s when I think you get into some dangerous waters.”
The president has always identified as African-American, even on the 2010 Census form, where he had the opportunity to choose more than one racial identifier.
Diggs’ stance brought a barrage of both support and criticism on social media. Diggs responded in a video published by TMZ. “My son is mixed, his mother is white, his father is black – and that’s just how it goes. I want him to be proud of who he is and I want him to be able to on his own terms include both parents. So if anybody has an issue with that, they can go fly a kite,” the 44-year-old said.
Curiously, another Hollywood star, who happens to be biracial, took a very different stance publicly just a few years ago. Actress Halle Berry claimed during her bitter custody battle with her ex-husband Gabriel Aubry that how their biracial child was racially identified was a source of tension between them. ”I feel she’s black. I’m black and I’m her mother, and I believe in the one-drop theory.” the Oscar winner told Ebony magazine in 2011.
The one-drop rule or theory refers to an early 20th Century concept that if an individual had any traceable black lineage they were considered African-American. Some states, like Virginia, codified the one-drop rule into law, with racial purity laws which were intended to discourage miscegenation. With the most recent Census data showing that the multi-race population is growing at a faster rate than the single-race population, the one-drop concept may be dated and antiquated to some.
“I am a proud black man. I want my son to grow up to be a proud black man if he so chooses. He has a mother who is white. He has every right to be just as proud of his mother’s ‘blood’ as well. Please wake up, people. It’s not that deep,” Diggs said in a separate statement on Twitter.