This essay will be drawing from a few written sources, primarily Lucinda Roy's "Effigies", which is located in Rebecca Walker's Anthology, Mixed, Gloria E. Anzaldúa's piece, "Borderlands/La Frontera", and W.E.B. DuBois' idea of double consciousness. For "Effigies", I plan to explore how the main character's understanding of his cultural identity is a type of performance. This character, Samuel Bernard Monroe, is a half white, half Black man who feels as though he must pretend to be Black in order to exist within the Black community. In this case, he is always “acting” Black. For Anzaldua’s piece, I will be discussing the “mestiza consciousness” which is a twist on W.E.B. DuBois’ notion of double consciousness, the ability to view yourself from the eyes of the oppressed and the oppressor. Anzaldua’s piece explains how being mixed is the future and allows a certain foresight. DuBois’ idea explains how mixed individuals are to see the world through multiple lens, being both the oppressed and the oppressor. I hope to focus on Anzaldua’s more optimistic take on being mixed, that is having foresight and being able to switch between worlds as well as having your own unique world. Overall, I plan for this project to show how being mixed is a performance in how mixed individuals must constantly “act” as a non-mixed individuals to fit in with racial groups and are only free or not acting when they are in Anzaldua’s concept of “mestiza consciousness”, that is, transcending the antiquated definition of being in a single racial or ethnic group and being able to exist between worlds.
The image to the right is Lucinda Roy, the author of "Effigies". She is of half Jamaican and half British descent. (Photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt, 2008)
After Loving v. Virginia was decided in 1969, anti-miscegenation laws were ruled unconstitutional within the United States. This opened the door for individuals of different races and/or ethnicities to come together and get married. With this, mixed individuals went from being legally forbidden to suddenly becoming the future of the United States. However, due to the nature of the United States, being a mixed individual can lead to a lot of turmoil, especially in consolidating one’s identity. The United States has a complicated history of isolating identities and pitting marginalized identities against one another. Mixed individuals, especially ones that are half white and half marginalized ethnicity or race, tend to face a lot of inner turmoil. They are facing, as W.E.B. DuBois’ describes, the effects of double consciousness, or the ability to view yourself through the eyes of the oppressor and the oppressed. Another note to keep in mind is that there isn’t a set “look” for being mixed and you cannot tell someone’s ethnic or racial background simply through their appearance. However, the United States tends to set forward certain appearances that allow someone entrance into their own culture(s). This is a form of inner turmoil (trauma) that may lead mixed individuals to leap through hoops in order to “prove” they are a member of their own culture. This paper will discuss this inner turmoil using Lucinda Roy’s “Effigies”, a short fictional story within Rebecca Walker’s anthology Mixed to demonstrate how painful it is to navigate being half Black and half white through the lens of Samuel Bernard Monroe, whose hair is the only trait that “codes” him as Black. Sam has to constantly “perform” Black culture in order to gain admittance to his culture, which ultimately leads to him having a breakdown cutting off all his hair. Being mixed is a constant performance that is inherently traumatizing for mixed individuals as they must constantly defend themselves. However, this inherent traumatization, this existence between worlds, can lead to “enlightenment”. Once a mixed individual can consolidate their identities, how they can travel between and exist in separate cultural worlds, they gain what Anzaldua refers to as la facultad, which is the “capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities” (Anzaldua 3027). Sam may not achieve this level of understanding within the short story, like many other mixed individuals in America, but la facultad is the future of mixed America.
The image to the left is a stereotypical image of a mixed individual. While some mixed individuals are very visibly mixed, a lot of times, their ethnic ambiguity is a lot less visible. (Photo by Kat Love on Unsplash)