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The book “The People in Me” by Kelley Robin depicts various aspects of mixed races. Kelly describes his experiences as a child from a mixed-race family background. He argues that if all people had mixed-race backgrounds, there would not be any racial discrimination. Mixing of races leads to genetic diversity; therefore, one is not in a position to identify himself or herself with a particular ethnic group.
Over the years, racism has been the principal reason why people identified themselves with their country of origin. For example, Native Americans believed that they had a common racial background, and that was used as a basis for transportation and consecutive exploitation of Africans in America in the 16th century. During this time, there was a clear-cut difference between races. Therefore, racial hatred resulted in high levels of discrimination that had been practiced for years (Smedley et al. 23). However, this has changed due to increased number of children from interracial marriages. Thus, most people are not able to draw a distinction in terms of their racial backgrounds. For example, Kelley finds it hard to identify himself with a particular ethnic group. He states, “His mother was from Jamaica but grew up in New York, while his father was from North Carolina but grew up in Boston” (Kelley 483). And the same is true of her sister who is often mistakenly identified as either Pakistani, or Bengali or even Ethiopian.
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According to Kelly, when people create mixed races, they create a mixed cultural background. For example, Indians changed the culture of vegetarianism to marijuana when they arrived in Jamaica. On the other hand, intermarriages occur when people of different races settle in one region. For example, Kelly’s mother and father had different places of origin, but,their stay in the United States played a significant role in their marriage. Kelley states that Africans have not been acknowledged for their contribution to Western civilization. Historically, Africans contributed heavily to the development of Western civilization. Slave trade began in the 16th century, while civilization began in the mid 18th century (Feagin, 160). This implies that by the time civilization was taking place in the West, there was a large number of Africans in the West. Therefore, Africans greatly influenced this civilization. Thus, by the virtue that African descendants were enslaved in the West, their influence on Western civilization cannot go unnoticed (Kelley 484). Alienation of Africans from Western civilization was based on the issue of racism. Africans were considered as mere slaves who did not have the capacity to even make their own decisions. They were under the rule of their masters and were negligible due to their slave status. Nevertheless, the fact remains that their presence influenced the chain of events that culminated in the emergence of Western civilization.
Notably, Africans have a poly-cultural origin, for they are composed of different cultural products. Their descendants came together and gave rise to mixed races. It is also worth noting that Africans are not homogenous in their ethnic makeup as compared to the West. For example, the United States is composed of various immigrants, such as the Hispanics and Latinos, who came to the country with their own culture and formed a large ethnic group. However, this is not the case with individuals of African descent. Therefore, African culture is always dynamic and diverse.
Kelley argues that, “Our biological and cultural lines are mixed up as a pot of gumbo” (Kelley 484). He stipulates that what has always been known as the black culture is a fluid and hybrid (Kelley 484). The culture was created by our ancestors who came into the shores not only as Africans but also as Ibo, Yoruba, and Hausa, and so on. Indeed, some ancestors came from as far as Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, Italy, the Caribbean, as well as from North and South America. Therefore, the aspect of poly-culture among Africans does not only have an African origin (Smedley et al. 16). It was also highly influenced by people from other parts of the world. On the other hand, race is sometimes used to define power relations among people of different races. Some races are obscured from power, as they are regarded to be inferior. The hierarchy of power is mostly established by the majority. This implies that minorities have no place and are often absorbed.
The central argument in this book is that racism should not be given preeminence (Feldon et al. 56). For example, people continually define themselves in terms of their race. The worst happens when you cannot explain where you came from, as it was the case with Kelley. People keep branding you names. For this reason, people tend to hate their cultural origin and do not like to be associated with a certain race in order to fit in the majority race (Feagin 240). Indeed, due to the aspect of racism, many people do not want to see the world as one.
Certainly, everyone belongs to a race, and we all live in a world where people and cultures are always dynamic. People are constantly meeting and interacting, hence an exchange of cultures. No matter how much we try to classify ourselves according to race, nothing remains still (Feagin, 160). We keep exchanging ideas and creating cultural diversity.
As stated earlier, Africans have a poly-cultural background. As a result, most Africans cannot clearly identify themselves with a particular ethnic group. They believe that they are blacks, although they associate themselves with their ethnic groups. Kelly states, “To acknowledge our poly-cultural heritage and cultural dynamism is not to give up our black identity” (Kelley 485). He maintains that Africans should strive to expand the limit within which they have defined their blackness. Moreover, Africans should take their history with all the seriousness it deserves without being cowed by the way European history defines African culture. They should also focus on the rich cultural diversity that lives within them.
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The story “The People in Me” is very unique, because Kelley Robin relates his own experiences as a product of interracial marriage. He is not happy with the fact that people find it hard to carry out some activities just because they do not belong to a certain race. For instance, he says, “My mother never fit the black momma media image” (Kelley 483). This is simply because she is married to a man of a different race. Moreover, their parents found it hard to name their children because of their difference in races. He states, “Although folk had trouble in naming us, we were never blanks” (Kelley 484). Not long ago, racial segregation was at its peak. It was used to define who you are, as well as where you came from. For example, there were different schools, medical centers and other institutions for the whites and blacks.
On the other hand, Kelley states that artists have played a great role in spreading common ideas across the globe. Musicians, such as Sun Ra, Perry and George Clinton, constitute a major source of ideas (Kelley 485). Pop and rock’n’roll culture became popular in the late 19th century. These cultures originated in the United States and spread across the globe. Notably, these musicians had their own culture that was easily spread to other people through music. Moreover, they also incorporated other people’s culture, helped spread ideas and tried to bring oneness among different races. Thus, racial divisions do not hold water when it comes to spreading ideas. Everyone is affected by an evolving culture despite the differences in race.
Having a mixed racial background, Kelley moves on to defend himself by stating that all people are inheritors of European, African, Asians and native Africans past ways of life. As a result, no race can clearly identity itself, for they all influenced each other at a certain point in history. Therefore, it is impossible to define the blood lines between various continents (Smedley et al. 22). All people in the world, and even in the Islamic world, share some common identities.
In situations of global crises, such as the First and Second World War, people in most parts of the world were affected. However, due to the aspect of race, some people are elevated above others simply because they are said to come from a superior race. This has resulted in lost identities, especially among Africans who migrated to other countries. For example, if an African migrated to an Islamic country, he/she was compelled to abandon his or her traditions, especially religion, and adopt Islamic culture (Feagin 81). This is due to the fact they do not recognize or respect other people’s cultures. However, Kelley reiterates that the most important thing is not to forget about our history but to embrace it with new eyes (Kelley 484). This starts with respect for other people’s traditions despite the differences in race. We cannot all have the same race, and we will always have differences in skin color, facial appearances, and skeletal structure. It is also common to find people of the same race having differences in their genetic composition.
Kelley states that people kept asking his little brother, “What are you?”(Kelley 484). Some people among the black communities of Los Angeles and Pasadena had to fight their way into blackness in order to be accepted. Kelly states that his “baby bro” always struggled to live among the black communities. Eventually, he migrated to Tokyo where he married a Japanese woman and learnt to speak Japanese. In this case, it will be very hard for his children to identify their racial belonging. Kelley states, “His baby bro acts as the perfect example of a black boy trapped in a white body who speaks English with a slight Japanese accent and has a son who will spend his life confronting the question of who he is” (Kelley 484). Therefore, Kelly’s family serves as a perfect example of how people of different racial background have intermingled to the extent that they cannot trace their roots. Historically, people migrated to other states for different reasons. For example, there are various immigrants in the United States who found themselves there for various reasons (Smedley et al. 20). For example, the Irish migrated to the United States due to various natural calamities, such as famine. After migration, people tend to forget their culture and adopt new ideas (Feldon et al. 56). As a result of various ethnic groups intermingling, mixed races emerge.
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Today, the United States is working on a program that is going to target all children in learning institutions. This is because of the increasing number of students with different ethnic background. Educators are being advised on the importance of having the capacity to deal with all students, despite their racial differences (Feagin 302). They should give equal chances to all students. Previously, black students were regarded as not being in a position to handle hard subjects. They were believed to have low intelligence quotient. Their race was said to be less superior. However, efforts have been made to create a sense of equality among all people, despite differences in their racial background. This was upon the realization that everyone has the capacity to undertake any activity, if given a chance.
It is evident from the above analysis that mixed races can not be considered as something bad. In his book “The People in Me”, Kelley clearly shows that racial mixing reduces instances of discrimination, as one cannot be clearly identified with a particular ethnic group. Indeed, children from interracial marriages have become a normal thing among people in various parts of the world. Nevertheless, there are people who discriminate and hate children of mixed races. This is evident in the case of Kelley where people kept bothering him to explain who he was. He argues that explaining who he is is a long story that is not necessary. Therefore, mixed race is happening and will continue happening as long as human beings live on the same planet. It is upon people of different races to accept and respect each other. Nevertheless, this will be based on the understanding that all human beings are equal and have the same capacities, if given equal chances.
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