Race Matters

The Biracial Backlash: Zendaya, Alicia Keys and Other Activists Targeted Over Mixed Race Heritage

Who authenticates “blackness” in 2015? In less than two weeks, I’ve watched Taye Diggs, Zendaya and Alicia Keys take to the press to justify biracial identity in the face of social media trolls (and media outlets) stirring the pot over whether they are “black enough” to stand for black social justice. Earlier this year, Black Lives Matter activist, Shaun King was targeted too.

What gives? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)

Now the backlash is rolling in again over Ebony Magazine’s 70th Anniversary Cover. Still wondering if it’s possible to highlight biracial/black activists promoting black social justice causes without immediate backlash – from whites and blacks.  Who gets to decide? Better yet, who is calling it out?

In my recent post, “Mixed Like Us: How to Support Biracial Children and Their Shifting Identities – I offer suggestions for supporting biracial identity within children. It should go without saying that the same rules apply for anyone identifying as biracial too. Arguing that biracial individuals are somehow less credible in their support of black social justice causes flies in the face of our history as noteworthy activists combating racial discrimination and segregation right alongside the generations navigating U.S. slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights and black power movements since the beginning.

Listen to Grammy winner Alicia Keys discuss her guest appearance on Fox’s hit show Empire where her character’s biracial identity was challenged after performing the song “Powerful” during the Midseason Finale (with an audience of well over 11 million viewers) on 12/2/15:

‘Biracial’ activists will continue to support black social justice causes even through anticipated blowback from mainstream and social media. This is nothing new. Contrary to popular misconceptions, we love our “blackness” too.

Now that you’ve heard the song’s backstory from Alicia Keys – Listen to “Powerful” (and its amazing lyrics) below:


(This article was also published by The Huffington Post on December 4, 2015)

2 replies »

  1. There is a strong reason to raise an eyebrow that no dark skinned African-American appeared on Ebony’s cover. All three people on the cover were entertainers. Why didn’t the cover show people from different walks of life? Where were the founders of the Black Lives Matters, three Black women? Has Ebony ever featured them on the cover? Where was Deray?

    However, I wonder will those people who criticize biracial/Black folks understand that the majority of African-Americans have some white ancestry no matter their skin color (rapper Nas’ paternal line descends from the Vikings according to the DNA analysis performed on PBS’ Finding Your Roots).

    In fact, the average Black American has approximately 25% white European ancestry according to most DNA surveys (23&Me, for instance). Will the stone casters attack the memory of Frederick Douglass, Bob Marley, Malcolm X., Lena Horne, Corretta Scott King, MLK, Dubois, and others who have white ancestry? What do those people think when they look at a picture of Rosa Parks or Thurgood Marshall?

    Would the Civil Rights movement have been better off without Parks, Marshall, Huey Newton, Angela Davis, or other light-skinned/obviously mixed-race African-Americans? Do we suddenly toss out Adam Clayton Powell or Jesse Jackson? Hell, Al Sharpton is a descendant of Strom Thurmond’s line.


  2. Excellent points Jennifer! I often wonder who is sitting at the table when decisions like these are made. Hopefully more people will continue to challenge the status quo – allowing audiences to reflect more in-depth about what’s portrayed in mainstream media and entertainment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s