About TaRessa Stovall
I am TaRessa Stovall, a native of Seattle, Washington. Where I am from, being mixed as we used to call it, was pretty much normal. So much so that in my formative years, I thought everybody had parents of different races. I am loudly, proudly and unambiguously BLEWISH*. I blog about it at http://www.blackandblewish.com, and I’m writing my identity memoir now. More about that later!
- Do you remember when you first came to understand that you are mixed race?
I don’t remember NOT being aware of that. I was hyper-aware of race from my earliest memory, categorizing people according to how they compared or related to my identity.
- Did you parents talk to you about your mixed race identity growing up?
My mother did, a little bit. I had already formed my own very strong opinions, but I listened to be polite. And I respected my mother’s views and her effort. I thought she did a good job of rearing 2 mixed kids to have a strong, healthy sense of identity with NO TRAGIC!
- What positive memories do you have from your childhood about being mixed race?
Positive memories? Being a ‘Jazz Baby’. I was part of a community (with extended family, not only in our Seattle neighborhood, but in other cities too) of black jazz musicians who married non-black women and all had babies at the same time. Being mixed in that context was neither positive or negative. It was something much better: our norm. There was no sense of “otherness.” That was a very strong foundation from which to launch a healthy, happy embracing of who we were.
- What are race relations like where you grew up? Did you experience any racism and/ or feelings of isolation?
I’m a boomer. My memoir covers the period from the riots that rocked the nation, and my hometown of Seattle the day after Dr. King’s assassination, to the election of the first Biracial/Black president 40 years later. Like all persons of black ancestry in the USA I experienced racism daily, as I still do. I sometimes felt isolated when my world and social circle expanded far beyond the ‘Jazz Baby’ extended family context. Isolated not because of being mixed, but isolated because there weren’t many folks around who shared my perspectives and passionate insistence of mixed-race pride. My fellow mixis didn’t want to discuss such things back in the day. They thought I was crazy and fussed at me for always wanting to talk about it. My little Mulatto Pride movement fizzled before it got off the ground.
I just posted a cool pic on Facebook of my brother and I, pictured in JET magazine when they came to Seattle in September 1978 to cover the revolutionary movement for a mixed-race census category. It was a movement I was deeply involved in at the time but the politics of that movement left me feeling sad and isolated as well.
- Are there any other aspects of your identity which you feel affected your experiences as a mixed race person that you would like to talk about (such as social class, sexual orientation, gender).
The aspects of my identity which have impacted me MUCH more than being mixed-race are being EXTREMELY light-skinned and SUPER ethnically ambiguous-looking.
- Do you feel more connected to a particular part of your racial identity? Has this changed over time?
I don’t experience my identity in fractions or parts. I am only about the synthesis, the sum total. BLEWISH. I have never let people take me apart and rearrange any part of my identity for their own purposes.
- How do you feel being mixed race has affected your personality and life choices?
Great question. I think that being mixed AND having extreme light-skin privilege have made me very audacious, bold and uncompromising in my politics.
- Has race affected your dating preferences?
Well I wasn’t really willing to date guys who were anything other than black. Now that I’ve retired from procreating, I’m open to swirling.
- Are you a part of any mixed race networks that you can tell us about?
Lots of them on Facebook…Mixed-race, Black & Jewish, Jews of Color. In the Mixed-race ones, where everybody is WAY younger than me, I am fascinated by how the younger folks parse their identities and try to parse the identities of other mixed folks. In the black Jews/Jews of color groups, I learn SO MUCH about Jewishness….which I really never knew too much about. Many of these folks are very adamant about self-identifying as, and aligning themselves with Jewish culture, tradition, etc. I am happily fascinated!
- What do you think are the benefits and difficulties associated with being mixed race today?
I don’t think there are any difficulties other than those that folks experience due to racism in society. Benefits? I guess light-skinned privilege if folks have that, and/or ethnically ambiguous-looking privilege if they have that. I don’t know that I think of being mixed as having benefits.
*Black and Jewish
TaRessa is currently promoting her memoir crowdfunding campaign.
‘So…I’m writing SWIRL GIRL: Confessions of a Racial Outlaw, and inviting everyone to join the team.
But SWIRL GIRL represents not just my story, but the birth of a new genre – bold, honest, nuanced mixed-race storytelling that takes us past stereotypes, mythologies and what bestselling novelist Chimamda Ngozi Adichi calls “the danger of a single story.”
I am raising funds to hire a top-notch editor, cover artist and designer, and to promote the book DIRECTLY to the people for whom I am writing it.
Click here to learn more about joining the team, all the perks, AND read the first few chapters for free!’
Taressa’s blog http://www.blackandblewish.com
For more mixed race interviews and updates join: http://www.facebook.com/amixedracefeministspeaks