Monday, February 16, 2015

Portrayals of Asian Guys with Latino, Black, White, & Mixed Girls

Asian men are rarely in interracial marriages, according to the US Census. And they're often stereotyped as unmanly, sexually undesirable, or emasculated.

But the media still depicts them in interracial relations. Here are some examples.

Please remember Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans are Asians too. Those countries are in Asia.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Arab-Asian singer tops the charts in France

This is my English translation of this French articlewhich was written in January. This month her debut album was the #1-selling album in France in its first week of release. 

Indila: This Winter's Surprise Hit
by Eric Bureau

She's everywhere. Hard to turn on the radio without hearing Indila, impossible to watch a music channel without seeing her video for "Dernière Danse" ("Last Dance") in Paris. First solo song and first hit. Number 2 bestselling single behind Pharrell Williams' "Happy", number 1 music video on TV, in addition to 35 million Internet views (as of March 2014).

Even without an album, she still landed her first TV performance on the acclaimed show, Vivement Dimanche ("Can't Wait For Sunday"), invited by an artist who found her song irresistible.

She's everywhere…and nowhere. Elusive. When you do an Internet search for Indila, you'll find virtually no information on her, neither official nor personal. Instead, her collaborations with popular rappers, and the release date of her debut album, February 24. Different websites say she's of Algerian descent, between 26 and 33 years old.

When we meet her in Paris, at Davout studio where she recorded her album with her "musical partner in crime", producer Skalp, she brilliantly sidesteps and eludes questions. "I'm the same age as my music, which is timeless. How old you think I am?" Between 25 and 30. "Okay then I'm between 25 and 30 today," she laughs. "Then we'll see tomorrow." Equally mysterious, her life story. "I'm a true Parisian, born in Paris. A child of the world. My family's heritage is Algerian, but also Cambodian, Egyptian, and Indian. And might I add: my middle name, Indila, comes from my endless love for India."

She ends up revealing that she was a tour guide at Rungis Market, the world's largest wholesale food market. She's always loved singing but hasn't formally studied music. In her formative years, she was raised on a diet of Enrico Macias, Michael Jackson, Brel, Edith Piaf, Algerian singers like Warda and Indian ones like Lata Mangeshkar. "Music is like me. No borders or barriers," Indila says in a soft voice, almost childlike, but self-confident. "It's no trouble for me at all to switch from Hip-Hop to adult contemporary."

Her album makes it clear she hasn't always seen the bright side of life. Her song "Last Dance" contains a play on words with "douce souffrances" ("sweet sufferings") and "Douce France" ("sweet France") by Charles Tenet, which she used to sing as a child with her older sister while bicycling. In "Tourner dans le vide" ("persevering amidst emptiness"), her next single, she laments the absence of a loved one, dark-skinned, son of a laborer, and hopes for his return. "Yes, this album talks a lot about the absence of loved ones and the void that it leaves, about memories, but about hopes too, about life passing by too quickly."

Pokerfaced, holding a cup of tea, she also drops this incredible statement: "I'm being born with this album, I didn't exist before. What matters isn't my life, but the story I want to tell the public."

Keeping things simple. For the sake of style? "I don't like to talk much. Even less so about myself," she tells us. "So far, I've been satisfied being in the shadows of the rappers I sing with, that's given me a sense of security." With the success that awaits her, she's going to have to force herself into the spotlight.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Idol Winners of Mixed Heritage

Tonight, American Idol will crown a new winner. More than 40 countries have their own version of the competition.

Below are winners of Idol TV shows around the world. Each of them are of mixed-race descent and/or upbringing, a reminder that music exists in every culture.

Guy Sebastian - Australian Idol, 2003
White (Portuguese and English) and Sri Lankan

Taufik Batisah - Singapore Idol, 2004
Indian and Indonesian

Ben Lummis - NZ Idol, 2004
White (New Zealander), Maori, and Tongan

Melissa O'Neil - Canadian Idol, 2005
White (Canadian) and Chinese

Jorun Stiansen - Idol (Norway), 2005
Transracial adoptee: Colombian raised by Norwegian (White) parents

Eva Avila - Canadian Idol, 2006
White (French Canadian) and Peruvian

Mau Marcelo - Philippine Idol, 2006
Puerto Rican (White and Black) and Filipino

Matthew Saunoa - NZ Idol, 2006
White (English) and Samoan

Jordin Sparks - American Idol, 2007
Black (American) and White (American)

Mark Medlock - Deutschland sucht den Superstar (Germany), 2007
Black (American) and White (German)

Diandra Flores - Idols (Finland), 2012
White (Finnish) and Chilean

Sophie-Tith Charvet - Nouvelle Star (France), 2013
White (French) and Laotian

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The series that put mixed girls on TV

11 years ago today, the TV show "24" made its debut. The ways that it challenged stereotypes seemed to predict the future: it showed a Black president 6 years before Obama's election, yet another Black president 2 years before the election, and it showed a White/Caucasian female Islamic terrorist 3 years before Muriel Degauque's suicide bombing.

In November 2008, the same month Barack was elected, the show portrayed the inauguration of a woman president---yet another prediction. Coincidentally, today is Election Day.

Some people think the series stereotypes Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Muslims as terrorists, but they apparently haven't seen many episodes. More than half of the villains on the show are neither Arab, nor Middle Eastern, nor Islamic. Not only that but the show often addresses the prejudice against these groups. In season 7 for example, White/Caucasian domestic terrorists try to frame an innocent man for a bombing; they think they'll get away with it because the man is Pakistani American and a practicing Muslim.

Another way that "24" was groundbreaking was by casting an unusually high number of mixed-race women. If you consider that...

1. the entertainment industry has always been White/Caucasian-dominated 
2. the media and pop culture have always ignored mixed heritage 

...then it's unprecedented to see this many mixed-race people in a major network TV series. 

This show holds the record for the most multiracial actresses in a TV series. This isn't an official record but it's hard to imagine another TV series with even more mixed actresses than this. If I'm wrong and there's another series with more, then that's great because it means there's more mixed people on TV than I thought. 

I invite/challenge you to make a list like this for a series that beats this record. Meanwhile, this is my list of mixed girls on "24"...

Marisol Nichols

Even though her character, Nadia Yassir, is Middle Eastern, she's really Mexican, Hungarian, Spanish, and Romanian.

Reiko Aylesworth

Her role as Michelle Dessler gives her more appearances on the show than anybody on this list. 
Her first name is a hint of her quarter-Japanese heritage, which also includes Welsh and Dutch.

Megalyn Echikunwoke

She plays the daughter of Senator Palmer in season 1. Her mother is White/Caucasian and her father is Nigerian.

Chuti Tiu

Her character is the personal assistant of the villain in season 2. She was born and raised in Wisconsin and is Chinese and Filipino.

Lourdes Benedicto

Her role is computer programmer Carrie Turner in season 2. She's Filipino and Dominican.

Christina Chang

She portrays Dr. Sunny Macer in seasons 3 and 7. She was born and raised in Taiwan to a Chinese-Filipino dad and a White/Caucasian mom.

Gina Torres

Her character is Julia Milliken in season 3. Both of her parents are multiracial Cubans; Gina, her mom, and her dad are all mixed Latino/Black.

Kamala Lopez

She plays the wife of a federal agent in season 3. Her dad is Venezuelan and her mom is Indian (South Asian, not Native American). She was born in New York City and grew up in Venezuela.

Lana Parilla

Her character is computer expert Sarah Gavin in season 4. Her mom is Italian and her dad is Puerto Rican, and she was born and raised in New York City.

Merle Dandridge

She appears in one episode of season 8 playing an attorney. Her mother is Japanese/Korean and her dad is Black. She was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Nebraska.

Neisha Folkes

Her role is a temporary babysitter at CTU Los Angeles in season 3. Her page on a casting website confirms she's mixed race, though it doesn't say her specific ethnicities.

Jacqueline Piñol

She's in one episode in season 7, playing a woman taken hostage in her house. Her heritage is mixed French Latin American. She was born in New York City and grew up in Los Angeles.

Sandrine Holt

She plays the First Lady's assistant in season 5, and also the mother of a girl who's played by the next actress on this list. Sandrine was born in England and grew up in Canada. Her birth surname is Ho, which is from her Chinese father, and her mother is White/Caucasian.

Skylar Roberge

Her character is a kidnapped girl in season 5 and the previous actress on this list portrays her mom. Apparently the producers were aware of mixed heritage when they cast these two parts. Skylar was born in Hawaii, which is the US state with the highest percentage of mixed people.

Talin Silva

Her page on a casting website confirms she's mixed but doesn't say her specific background. Whether or not she has any Middle Eastern heritage, she plays a little girl from the fictional Mideast country of Kamistan, in one episode of season 8.


These actresses on "24" might be multiracial but I couldn't find anything on their ethnicities. 

Clockwise from top-left, along with their roles in the series:

1. Tamara Tunie: CTU director Alberta Green in season 1
2. Pia Artesona: the secretary of one of the bad guys in season 5
3. Lissa Pallo Strong: a woman at a hotel bar in season 5
4. Jolene Kim: the assistant to the US president in season 6
5. Tania Verafield: a woman on the other end of a phone call in season 8
6. Sarah Hollis: an aide at the White House in season 8

Alexandra Lydon

She plays the daughter of the villain in season 3. Unlike the "unconfirmed" actresses above, I did find info on her ethnicity...

...and she isn't multiracial, she's Irish. She shouldn't be on this list but I included her for 2 reasons:

1. She is mixed nationality because she's a dual citizen (Ireland and USA), and I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that nationality isn't the same thing as race. 90% of the time, when somebody says "nationality", they really mean race/ethnicity. I'm always correcting people. Nationality means citizenship; it's a legal status that has nothing to do with racial/ethnic background. The nationalities of most of these actresses is American.

2. In my opinion, her physical appearance could pass as some type of mixed heritage, which means she could portray a mixed character, which means she could influence media representations of multiracials if she ever played one, even if she might not be one in real life. Marisol Nichols, the first actress on this list, isn't a Middle Easterner but she played one; she therefore had an influence on how that group is represented.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The year of mixed-race TV stars

Half of the posts I've written so far this year are lists of multiracial actors and actresses on TV shows. But four decades before any of those shows hit the airwaves, one mixed actress and one mixed actor made history in 1966.

The first mixed-race person to star in a TV show was Marlo Thomas, who played the title role in the series That Girl, which first aired on September 8, 1966 on ABC. (1966 is pretty early, I assume I'm correct in saying she was the first, but correct me if you know an earlier person).

She is mixed Arab and European. Her dad was the son of Christian immigrants from Lebanon (I mention they were Christian because everybody assumes all Arabs are Muslim, and I love to challenge stereotypes), and her mom was Italian-American.
That's Marlo with her dad, and her with the whole family (she's the oldest kid).

After the debut of That Girl, ABC premiered a show with a mixed-race male in one of the lead roles—on the very next day after That Girl debuted. As though they wanted to prevent anyone from saying they're sexist against mixed guys.

That series was The Green Hornet on September 9, 1966. One of the main characters was played by Bruce Lee. He wasn't the main star, but decades later the DVD release said he was (above), as if ABC regretted not giving the lead to a mixed actor, like they did to a mixed actress.

Most people have heard of him, but very few know he was mixed race. His dad was Chinese and his mom was biracial Chinese/German.
In both photos, he's in the middle and his biracial mother is on the left.

As if they were addicted to being pioneers, Marlo and Bruce went further and became the first mixed woman and man on the cover of the biggest TV magazine, in the same year their two programs premiered.

It's like the TV industry was proclaiming the arrival of multiracials.

(Correct me if you know an earlier mixed person who was on TV Guide's cover)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

French colonial Vietnamese-Africans

This is my English translation of this French article.

War and Race Mixing: "I was born from a Vietnamese mother and a Senegalese father."
by Florence Lame

The bloody war in Indochina caused more than 500,000 deaths, 15,000 of which were African servicemen. The surviving servicemen fled Vietnam along with their women and children. What followed was a melting pot lineage, which today still retains the features of a love that transcended time and war.

The war began in the 1940s, following the Japanese invasion of Lang Son, a border town between Vietnam and China. It was the beginning of what's commonly called the "Indochina War", referring to a large peninsula which at the time consisted of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, a part of Malaysia, and Vietnam. Seeing their sovereignty (dating from colonialism) threatened by Japanese attacks, the French army decided to call in servicemen from Africa as reinforcements for the army already there, they were the "Senegalese colonial infantrymen". With nationalist movements following WWII in 1945, the fighting lasted until 1954. At the end of this war, the servicemen who survived left Vietnam by boat, with some of them bringing along women and children: "My father took us all in his arms and we crossed the Pacific Ocean for months in boats that were constantly in danger of capsizing", recalls Jean Nguyen, son of a Vietnamese mother and Senegalese father. For most Vietnamese, Chinese, and Laotian women who had affairs with African servicemen, such escape was the only hope of surviving a massacre. Thus appeared in Africa a melting pot lineage: Senegalese-Vietnamese, Ivorian-Vietnamese, Morroccan-Vietnamese, etc.

Since their arrival in Senegal, very few Asian women returned to their homeland. Some lost everything and saw no reason to come back, others simply couldn't afford it. Today they're largely recognized and respected for having protected their families during the war, and having adapted to a world and customs that were previously completely unknown to them. They perfectly mastered the language, the cuisine, and the customs of their host country. But the integration of children from these unions was no easy task. "At first, our relationship with the Senegalese population was somewhat difficult. In the street, at school, we got called 'chinks'. There were many fights in the schoolyard because of that!" recalls Jean. But the Viet-Senegalese who live in Senegal today are considered to be Senegalese themselves.

Vietnam is known for being very conservative and it's sometimes hard for mixed-race people to make a life for themselves there. Nicole Hoang, a young woman of Senegalese and Vietnamese descent who speaks Vietnamese fluently, tells us about one of her visits to Vietnam: "It's harder for 'Black' mixed people. When they saw me speaking Vietnamese, having never seen Blacks, they couldn't fathom it. Yet the people who fought in the Indochina War were much nicer!" This racial mixing is for some an openness to the world, a rich culture, while for others it's the opposite: it's a disgrace. "I am the symbol high treason with the enemy, of a forbidden collaboration," confided Kim Lefèbvre, a Eurasian who grew up in Vietnam, in an interview for

Over time, most children of this generation migrated all over the world. Some have chosen to come settle in France, where notably they set up an organization for mixed-race Senegalese-Vietnamese people, The Lai-Den ("mixed race" in Vietnamese) in Paris. The same thing exists in the United States, such as the father of famous golfer Tiger Woods, for example, who fought in the Vietnam War, during which he married a Thai woman. This racial mixing, which was seen before as something incomprehensible, has thus become a distinguishing trait of African/Asian mixed people, but most of all, an identity in it's own right.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

French Native Americans

This is my English translation of this French article.

Those American Indians who speak French
by Jean-Michel Selva

Father Roch Naquin, Houma Catholic priest

The Houma tribe of Louisiana speak French the way it was used in the 18th century. But the destruction of their environment by oil companies threatens the harmony of this ethnolinguistic community.

They are the cousins of the Apaches and the Sioux. Their skin is red and they speak our language, or rather, that of Montesquieu. Houma Indians are the forgotten ones in the history of Louisiana, where they had to seek refuge from advancing white settlers from England in 1765, following the Expulsion of the Acadians. Already 30 km (18.6 mi) out from Houma, a little town south of New Orleans, and still nothing in sight except a narrow strip of land jutting out into the water. The huge 4x4 Chevrolet Silverado of Thomas Dardar Jr (below), community leader of the Houma Indians, speeds ahead of us and guides us across Isle de Jean Charles. Destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the road, which sinks into the bayous towards the Gulf of Mexico, has just been rebuilt.

Finally, rising in the distance are Pointe-aux-Chenes and breathtaking houses on pilotis, a sort of mobile homes erected on wooden stilts, overlooking the lagoon. "Watch Pipeline", warn signs stuck in the middle of the waters, extending out from either side of the road. A few dead trees, eaten away by salt, are the only ones accompanying us on this road. In this abandoned setting live the majority of the French-speaking Houma Indians.

Black pants, turquoise shirt, and a vest with Indian designs on which his braid sways back and forth, stretching down his back, the leader Dardar stops between the pilotis under a huge yellow dwelling. Father Roch Naquin comes to welcome him, they greet each other with open arms, very French indeed.

Allies of the French

"At the end of the 17th century, before the strained relations between French and English settlers, our community naturally formed an alliance with the former, because the explorers Cavelier de La Salle and Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville had always been supportive of it," explains Thomas Dardar. "As a result, our ancestors learned the French language, and passed it down to us orally. The vast majority of the Houma can neither read it nor write it, but they always speak it."

Banned from schools for being Indians, the Houma were eventually allowed to enroll in public education starting in 1964. But until 1975, they were punished whenever they dared to say a sentence in French. For this tribe of American Indians, a three-century-old form of French was able to endure, because of the cultural importance of oral tradition and their practice of it without contact with the outside world.

The Houma thus saved from oblivion expressions like: catin (harlot/whore/prostitute) for poupée (doll); char (chariot/tank/ wagon) for automobile (car); espérer (hoping) for attendre (waiting); s'épailler (removing dirt from badly forged gold) for s'étendre (stretching/spreading/expanding); and even "icitte" for "ici" (here), "au boutte" for "au bout" (at the end)...They mix as many words with Choctaw, their ancestors' language.

"The State of Louisiana granted us Indian nation status only in 1979," notes Thomas Dardar, "but we're still waiting for federal recognition, already rejected in 1994." "We here are the roughly 17,000 Houma Indians, divided into three clans, united by the use of the French tongue." Father Roch Naquin like to say he considers himself French and Indian. "My ancestor Charles came from the Bordeaux region and married an Indian. Here on Isle de Jean Charles, my father and those of his age spoke and wrote French. He then learned English, unlike my mother who never wanted to. Today only the eldest of my neighbors refuse to. The youngest became English speakers. It will be hard to preserve our language." At 55 years old, even the chief Thomas Dardar who's mastered French perfectly uses the American language more often. This generation of Houmas in their fifties may be the last to express themselves in the language of Molière. The last surviving link to a way of life that's already no more.

A Difficult Life

"Forests with tall trees used to grow here," recalls Chief Dardar. "Over there, my grandfather raised cattle in the meadows where muskrats would run," points Roch. "We had horses to plow the land, which produced enough to feed us. With the intensive oil drilling, salt water has leaked everywhere, it continues to eat our land and destroy all the vegetation."

To survive, the Houma community, scorned by everyone for centuries, turned to fishing. Some of them have managed to become lawyers and doctors, others have left to work in the shipyards. But for one year now, because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Houma can no longer fish like before. Skin diseases and respiratory problems have emerged. "They seem to be linked to BP spreading solvents to get rid of the oil slick floating in the gulf."

This fragile community is plagued and weakened even more: "very few among us have access to adequate social welfare," laments chief Dardar. "We've also suffered from the last four hurricanes. My house has been raised higher above ground on three occasions in twenty years, the roofing replaced a number of times. Leave and go elsewhere? No, no, this here is my house, this is the land of our ancestors," protests Father Roch Naquin.