Double Reflections An essay on the future of being multi-ethnic in America

(Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash)

~ The Future of America is Mixed ~

Created by Naomi Ángela Cruz

How is being mixed a constant performance in America? How does being aware of your performance as a mixed individual lead to freedom and stability?


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)

"Effigies" Background

The image above showcases hair that was may have been similar to Sam's. Due to this light colored skin, Sam was only recognized as "black" through his hair, so he staked his entire identity on that, eventually breaking down and shaving off his hair--his identity. (Photo by Fineas Anton on Unsplash)

“Effigies” follows the story of Samuel Bernard Monroe, an esteemed professor in African studies at a prestigious university. He leads a conference in African studies, but he is quickly called out by one of the attendees for there being only one female at the conference. After this, he is challenged by the president of the university on whether or not he is actually Black, due to his light-colored skin. This causes him to verbally assault his mother who has dementia to “prove” that his father was Black. She rejects him and calls him out on his misogyny, which leads him into having a breakdown and he shaves off all of his hair. Sam is a half white, half black individual but he appears white. His hair, which is the only feature on his body that can be black coded, is his “passport, his weapon, a winner of arguments, a diadem” (Roy 49) and his entrance into black society. Due to him being mixed and appearing white, he doesn’t easily have access to one side of his culture, and this hurts him. He suffers so much that he decides to overcompensate for his “blackness” by discarding his “whiteness”. He is overly sensitive to others critiquing his identity and stakes all of his self-worth in his ability to “pass” as Black. He gains a complex with power and internalized misogyny to fit stereotypes about Black culture and to compensate for how powerless he feels for something that should be simply accepted. He overly performs “Blackness” simply to be seen as adequate for the Black community. This acute awareness and sensitivity to how he is perceived is known as “double consciousness”, which will be discussed in the next section.

W.E.B. DuBois' Double Consciousness

The image above represents someone is who acutely aware of this racial/ethnic ambiguity and how people perceive them. This individual is staring into a mirror undoubtedly seeing both how they view themselves and how the world sees them. This is double consciousness. (Photo by Rendiansyah Nugroho on Unsplash)

Double consciousness: the ability to view yourself through the eyes of the oppressor and the oppressed

Sam’s troubling understanding of how others perceive his whiteness and “lack” of blackness leads him to become extremely self-conscious of the way he is viewed by others. He knows that he looks white, so he tries to overplay whatever connections to “blackness” he has. He is able to see himself as he is (half black and half white) as well as the ways other people see him (as merely white). His is doubly conscious of his presence, of what he actually is and how he does not measure up to what others expect of him as a mixed individual (DuBois). DuBois’ concept of double consciousness was originally applied to how African Americans in the US would constantly be viewed as “Black” and “American” not as Black Americans, not as their blended identities (DuBois). They would always be othered. However, this also applies to the mixed experience as mixed individuals are often othered by their many cultures for not perfectly fitting what their culture expects of them. Sam fits into this group. His appearance does not grant him immediate access to both cultures, white or black. With this, Sam overcompensates and becomes manic regarding his hair: “Because of his hair, Carly [ex-wife] had called him Samson instead of Samuel when they’d first met— threatened to do a Delilah on him—shave it all off one day when he was sleeping. He hadn’t told her he’d kill her if she did” (Roy 48). He fears this so much that he considers killing his ex-wife if she ever touches his hair.

This is how acutely aware and traumatized he is by his mixed identity.

He relies solely on his hair to keep him afloat in the “Black world”; it is his “passport” to a world he otherwise does not have access to. Sam must perform unnaturally and as a caricature to embrace an aspect of himself and this is traumatizing. This trauma comes into play with the next step with being mixed: accepting one’s identity, as confusing as it may be.

Anzaldua's La Facultad/New Mestiza

The image above showcases an individual who is gaining la facultad and coming to understand that their identity is not defined by others; they are gaining freedom and stability. Eventually, they will be the new mestiza, someone who exists proudly even as a contradiction. (Photo by yulia pantiukhina on Unsplash)

"Borderlands/La Frontera" -- Gloria E. Anzaldua

Anzaldua’s essay “Borderlands/La Frontera” delves into the notion of la facultad, which is almost like a sixth sense, an ability to perceive things that are not readily available to most people. Anzaldua asserts that only those who undergo deep trauma and have faced oppressions on all sides can develop this supernatural ability to be “excruciatingly alive” (Anzaldua 3025). Sam has yet to reach la facultad in this story, but this is the ultimate goal of mixed individuals. After becoming hyper aware of their surroundings, mixed individuals—aware of their own performance to fit in—transcend to become the new mestizas.

The new mestiza is someone who “copes by developing a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity. She learns to be Indian in Mexican culture, to be Mexican from an Anglo point of view. She learns to juggle cultures” (Anzaldua 3030).

Sam, if he manages to overcome the adversities he faces, will become comfortable with his existence, the contradictions present within him. He will trust himself and his identity. He will learn to live in different worlds and in a world of his own creation. He will be able to “sustain contradictions… [and] turn the ambivalence into something else” (Anzaldua 3030). For mixed individuals in America who are forced to perform like overworked puppets to attempt tp gain admittance to their respective cultures, they will find freedom and stability in gaining la facultad and becoming the new mestiza. When they can accept who they are and have trust in themselves that they are enough, then they will be enough and they will find relief. Gaining the mestiza consciousness--being comfortable with being mixed--will allow them to transcend to their new role in society, which is becoming the future.

Final Thoughts

(Photo by Jayson Hinrichsen on Unsplash)

~The future is mixed~

Being mixed in America is confusion and a constant performance. Individuals are forced to “perform” their cultures in order to be “enough” for their cultures. There is a constant fear of being rejected and not having a place in society. This leads to constant trauma and trauma from all sides of the equation. Sam faced oppression from the white people who coded him as Black because of his hair and the Black people who coded him as white because of his skin. He ultimately breaks down due to these forces standing against him. However, this is not the fate of mixed individuals at large. They are the future of America. Mixed individuals represent the coming together of many cultures, which hints at a more global and a more diverse future. However, the United States is not ready for mixed individuals that break the mold of racial and cultural boundaries leading to mixed individuals facing inherent trauma with their identities. With this abuse comes knowledge, known as la facultad, or a hyper-awareness of one’s surroundings. With la facultad comes the notion of the new mestiza, which is an acceptance of contradictions, an acceptance of belonging to many places at once. This acceptance gives mixed individuals the unique advantage of belonging to many worlds simultaneously. Mixed individuals go from being systematically denied from all worlds to suddenly having claim to many worlds and being able to freely travel between them. As Anzaldua says,

“En unas pocas centurias, the future will belong to the mestiza” and we will no longer have to “perform” culture. -- Anzaldua 3031

(Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

-Works Cited-

Anzaldúa Gloria, Saldívar Sonia, & Valle, C. (2016). Borderlands: la frontera. Madrid: Capitan Swing.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Dover Publications.

Roy, L., Prasad, C., & Walker, R. (2006). Effigies -- Mixed: an anthology of short fiction on the multiracial experience. New York: W.W. Norton.

UMass. (2013, December 18). Double Consciousness. Retrieved from http://scua.library.umass.edu/duboisopedia/doku.php?id=about:double_consciousness.