Multiracial Identity in Essays by Julia Alvarez and Danzy Senna
The essays of Julia Alvarez and Danzy Senna address issues of multiracial identity important in their younger years as they grew up daughters of a multiethnic and multiracial background. Despite the slight generational differences, the same issues are as important today as they were twenty or thirty years ago.
The concept of one being multiracial is a relatively new concept. In the past, a person with a mixed racial background could not reasonably claim a mixed heritage openly, one had to identify with one or the either. Those that could not do that usually found themselves isolated from either background. This is made apparent in American literature through memorable characters such as William Faulkner's Joe Christmas, a man from a mixed racial background who could not identify wholly with either his black or white heritage in the South in the early 20th century. This is also the experience of Danzy Senna, who explains that in her early experiences in Boston, that there was either black or white and no "halvsies". Despite her father's choice of white female companionship, her father made her define herself as black. This was the usual trend of the multiracial equation until corporations, as Senna describes, realize that multiracialism can increase their profit margin. Thus, we see the bombardment of multiracialism in pop culture today. This is especially apparent in the entertainment industry, particularly the music industry. Many celebrities now take pride in their multiethnic, multiracial heritage. Nowadays, it is chic for many music artists to be of multiracial background. Where one had to choose between one or the either, as Senna and in part Alvarez had, it was considered okay to claim a multiracial background even on official forms with the bubble sheets with white, black, Latino, Asian/pacific islander, and other for racial identification. Yet, this new embracement of multicultural is due more to commercial manipulation rather than an increasing acceptance of the evolving racial equation. One example is the popularity of Latin music.
In the last past two years, the popularity of Latin music has exploded and along with it, the careers of people like Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera, and Enrique Inglesias. Some of these people claim a mixed racial heritage and accordingly, it seems apparent that a more tolerant and even accepting time in history has come for those of a mixed heritage. Indeed, many entertainers now come to fame based in part on having a mixed racial heritage. However, Latin music has been around for many years and its emergence in the mainstream is unlikely to be due to a more liberal attitude towards multicultural, multiethnic themes. The recent, newly found popularity demonstrates more of a realization that companies can exploit multiracialism for a profit. Commercialism exploits and co-opts the theme of multiculturalism in the...