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Diasporic Identities Or The Various Modern Mixed-Race Categories: From MGM To Multiracial Whiteness

Beyoncé for Essence magazine 2011

Biracials are mixed people. But not all mixed people are biracial. This ambiguity regarding racial admixture needs to be highlighted for the sake of academic research.

Contrary to popular belief, the mixed-race category is much more plural than one thinks and it could be divided into these selections:

The Non-mixed Black Africans or Afro-descendants Who Evolve In A Multiracial And Multicultural Space

Saadia Mosbah, indigenous black Tunisian activist and politician/AL Jazeera

(eg, Black Louisiana Creoles, Swahilis from East Africa, Black Mediterraneans who descend from black African immigrants mostly, Black Caribbeans and Black South Americans, pure Black Arabs, pure Black Levantines ex Black Palestinians, Jordanians etc). Though the members of this group are not mixed-race, they are also placed in a space where fluidity is the basis of their society. These black Africans and Afro-descendants intermarry or they can choose other partners. They know that they are apart of a multiracial and multiethnic society they embrace for what it is. It is worth noting that the Mediterranean and North African categories began to practice multiracialism before the slave trade even began. This reality goes as far as the Bronze Age as illustrated by the Phoenicians, who constituted one of the first multiracial societies.

The members of this group, as stated above, are not mixed race but are culturally mixed. They differ from the pure Blacks who evolve in one monoculture.

The MGM Blacks or Multiracial Blacks/Afro-descendants.

Beyoncé/Getty Image

As indicated by their name, the MGM Blacks descend from a lineage of mixed-race people who intermarried. Whether light skin, brown skin or dark skin, regardless of their features, this group leans towards blackness but are cut with other races, thus a particularity which results from centuries of intermixture. Their MGM heritage can also be reinforced by the origins of their places, hence spaces which were multiracial, whether as a result of slavery or immigration (eg, mixed-race Louisiana Creoles, Swahilis from East Africa, Black Berbers in North Africa, mixed-race Black Levantines, and/or mixed-race and Black Mediterraneans). Examples: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Tatyana Ali, Justine Skye, Nicki Minaj, Foxy Brown

The Reversed “-Oons”.

Malia Obama is not black, but a “reversed” quadroon. (Note, Michelle looking great)

Black quadroons (1/4th white, and 3/4th black), Black octoroons (1/8th white, and 7/8th black) and other blending of black and white. Most importantly, Malia Obama is an American citizen who endures the brutality of the One Drop Rule and thus, the standardization of blackness. Her black ancestry is even mixed since her mother Michelle is African American and her paternal grandfather was Kenyan.

The Biracials

Alicia Keys

The Biracials often come to mind when thinking about racial admixture. This category is about children born to a black and white parent, or black and Asian parent etc

The Multiracial Whites or MGM Whites

Berber Moroccan woman
A Black Cuban child surrounded by multiracial White cubanitas
The boy on the far left is a multiracial white Cuban/Getty Images
Multiracial white Cuban girl

Portraits of Melungeons

Veronica Vega/Love and Hip-Hop

This group, which we will explore later on, refers to many white Caribbeans and Brazilians, or even Melungeons, hence white people who descend from a mixture of quadroon, biracials with white. It is not rare that these clans evolve in an Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian culture, while not being black. The specificity of this group lies in the fact that none of the members have a direct black ancestor who is visible and present, but they are the products of a fusion of mixed-race blacks with white. eg Veronica Vega, Adriana Lima, Melungeons, white Louisiana Creoles. Just like the MGM Blacks, the MGM Whites are the direct creation of both the slave trade and colonialism.

The Quadroons, Octoroons and Hexadecaroons

Miss Mariah Carey

They are white people who descend from one specific black ancestor in their lineages, eg Alexandre Dumas, Alexander Pushkin, Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter,Carol Channing, Julien Clerc, Corinne Touzet, Tatiana Silva, Carly Simon. In the United States, their mixed parent is referred to as Black and they often grow up thinking they are light skin, due to the One Drop Rule, when they are white and multiracial.

Asians with African Ancestry

Indian Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris, Sean Paul, the mixed-race Balochis from Kenya. The members are multiracials who descend from direct black branches, while not being black.

The Natives with African ancestry

Princess Nokia
Big Pun

Princess Nokia represents this reality. Though a native Taino from Boriken, the rapper boasts about her non-visible West African origin she possesses despite it all. In the same vein, the majority of Afro-Chileans are native who carry African ancestry which can be visible through the hair, though the phenotype remains native. This category is not similar to that of the Zambo at all.

The Afros Who Descend From Natives

Black Seminole by Meleah Lyden/WUFT News

The Black Seminoles, Afro-Tainos, Afro-Brazilians, or Black Americans with direct Native roots such as Kyrie Irving who is a quarter Lakota represent this category.

Afro Groups Who Descend From White Ancestors

John Sweeney, an Afro-Irish man from Montserrat by the BBC 2017

As illustrated by many citizens of the island of Montserrat, Cape Verdeans, Angolan mestiços, Mixed-race Congolese, mixed-race Mozambicans, South African Coloreds.

Afro groups who descend from Chinese

Nicole Hing, Guyanese

Indo-Afro Guyanese, Indo-Afro Trinidadians, Indo-Afro Surinamese and Arubans. These members grew up in the Asian side and culture and are Asians who possess African ancestry.

All these categories prove that the same way African history needs to be re explored, relearned, retaught and understood, the various identities and races which emerged following the beginning of the slave trade have to be studied carefully. The ultimate desire is not that of creating a racial hierarchy which would place the mixed individuals over the Blacks, but these distinctions would help African scholars understand the extent of the brutality of both the slave trade and colonialism in Africa, Europe but also in the Americas.

These categories also show that, despite the harsh racial structures imposed by the slave masters, culture still prevails and determines the identity of one individual. In that sense, Asians in the Caribbean can descend from a black ancestor and evolve in an Afro-Caribbean culture more. While an African with Asian ancestry can evolve more in the Asian culture. Thus, skin color does not always influence these groups, but rather the culture which shaped and made them.

After four centuries of abuse, and one century of colonialism, the Atlantic world produced various types or groups of people who now differ from the original ones. If the pure West African phenotype still exists today in the Americas where millions of them were deported, a great proportion of Caribbeans, Latinized Americans and even Black Americans (though they were brainwashed to believe in the silly One Drop Rule) are no longer truly black or white but rather the products of the two (or even more lineages) overtime. The creation of these new colonial countries in the Caribbean, Latinized America and the United States went along with the creation of new racial identities.

The Cuban identity, similar to many other Latinized American nations, was shaped through the erasure of African and Native distinctions. The two distinct identities could not only lead to a revolution from the two oppressed groups, but such rebellion would have led to the end of the ruling white Creole class of Italian and Spaniard descent. In order to quench any spirit of rebellion, as illustrated by the 1912 Cuban massacre of the Black rebels, the African and Native identities had to be erased but replaced within the colonial context of Cubanidad. The latter, just like Latinidad, forces the Natives and Africans to join the idea of a triracial myth which places them at the same level of their European murderers/colonizers. As for Latinidad, Cubanidad places the white Creole at the center and argues about the importance of destroying any specificity between the various populations. This argument is also encouraged by the constant propaganda of race-mixing overtime. Once again, this race mixing is rooted in the desire of the mixed people to stay closer to whiteness, regarded as the ideal of everything. Therefore, in this system of supposed equality, the pure black Africans and Natives remain at the bottom where no one claims them.

The multiracial Black identity is a reality which can not be denied. However, though creole societies emerged in the Atlantic, Arab and Indian ocean spaces, the mixed groups are relegated in the black side. The pure Blacks themselves block any multigenerationally mixed Black from claiming or embracing their mixed-race heritage for reasons already evoked on this website in previous articles.

In reality, the MGM Blacks, whether from the US, the Caribbean or East Africa, are no longer black for a gruesome fact. If the pure black community was conditioned and bred to remain at the bottom, the MGM Blacks were racial creations who were made on purpose. The plight of the Cape Verdeans can not be compared to that of the Congolese, since one group was heavily diluted in order to change them into creations which belong to Portugal, while the others were bred to be submitted to forced labour, abuse and physical exploitation. After having been exploited the whole day, the pure black slave went back to his quarters, but the mixed creation racially and partially belonged to the masters. The latter was the political creation. In that sense, the pure Blacks can still have the power to exist on their own, and so despite the constant abuse and trauma. The latter even managed to create their new cultures and genres, but the MGM Blacks can not survive without the presence of the colonizers who made them. The latter are forced to live with the inner plight of being a suspended racial experimentation. This racial experimentation can happen through blood, but also through whitewashing, as illustrated by the case of the Belgian-Congolese évolués and the Mozambican assimilados.

The évolués and assimilados were pure black people and also mixed-race at times, who were chosen by the colonial power to support their colonial propaganda. The group were regarded as superior for many reasons: they had separated themselves from the primitive black African culture, owned a certain amount of money, and they lived according to the European lifestyle. Yet, following the independence, the colonial powers treated them like sub-humans. The group was just used by the colonial authorities to create a sphere of supporters in case rebels or panafricanists thought of thwarting their plans. This represents a rare case of whitewashing without race-mixing. The creation of the évolués/assimilados nurtured the development of a black bourgeoisie whose members believed in the superiority of the West and white people. Often, these évolués were orphans who were placed in Belgian and Portuguese Catholic institutions.

The MGM Blacks can not be understood, from a historical point of view, outside of the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism, since they are the products.

In the Arab world, the MGM Blacks are somehow accepted in their fluid identity. In the brutality of their regime, the Arab powers from the Arabian peninsula, raped the Central African women but they also recognised the children they had with them. It is also more than important to highlight the fact that a great portion of Arab slave masters were indigenous black Arabs. In that sense, though the Arabians from the Peninsula had a disdain towards the Central Africans, their offspring could easily identify as their Arab fathers who were black. The forced spread of Islam also led to the birth of a religious hegemony which attached the colonial Arab creation to the sphere of their oppressors. Often, in the Arab world, scattered black populations whose roots are unknown are called “Arabs”, since the original Arabians are black. This fluidity, even in crime, does not encourage the MGM Black Arab to speak out against the slave trade. Indeed, since they were recognised by their oppressors for also being Arab, they are treated differently, but are also blindsided by the false idea of perfect equality promoted by the religious propaganda of Islam, not as a faith, but as a political tool.

In East Africa, the specificity of the MGM clan comes from several factors. If the slave trade is a reason which explains such fluidity, immigration and trade in general favored such exchanges. Even before the Arab slave trade began, Chinese, Indian, Persian sailors greatly exchanged goods with East Africans. This led to racial admixture and early phases of Persian, Indian immigration into the East African coasts. Therefore, black Africans and non-Europeans mixed overtime for centuries, and the groups born out of it were Africans, it is true, but whose blackness was also mixed.

The same way, groups of Balochi, Indians and Arabs settled in East Africa for centuries. Due to this settlement, their culture remained closer to that of their ancestors, but they became mainly East African. Consequently, Kenyan, Ugandan, Tanzanian, Mozambican food, (among others) incorporate Persian, Indian and Arab elements due to these exchanges. The Swahili problematic blends the trauma of the slave trade, but also the issues linked to assimilation, immigration, and non-criminal trade.

So, the biracial identity goes hand in hand with a personal choice from two partners who belong to different races, but the MGM issue is tied to the brutality of both colonialism and slavery, under the spectrum of globalism since slavery was a form of globalism at the time. In this regard, through their racial admixture, colonial ties and complexities, the multiracial Blacks are not Black, since they belong to their own categories depending on the space they come from.

Consequently, in order to understand the specificities and brutality of the slave trade, it is more than crucial to analyze these specific groups and their cultures in depth, so as to abolish the fraudulent, racist and colonial “black” label which created a standardization blackness, by lumping all Afro descendants into a sphere of undesirability, so as to crush them.

By Victoria “V.K.Y” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved 2023

[1] Pourchez, Laurence “Métissages à la Réunion : entre souillure et complexité culturelle”, Africultures, 2005 https://africultures.com/metissages-a-la-reunion-entre-souillure-et-complexite-culturelle-3721/

[2] Houdaille Jacques. Le métissage dans les anciennes colonies françaises. In: Population, 36ᵉ année, n°2, 1981. pp. 267-286. DOI : 10.2307/1532549

[3] Ghasarian, Christian. « La Réunion : acculturation, créolisation et réinventions culturelles », Ethnologie française, vol. 32, no. 4, 2002, pp. 663-676.

[4] Twiesselmann F. La méthodologie du métissage. In: Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris, XII° Série. Tome 7 fascicule 2, 1971. pp. 145-157. DOI  https://doi.org/10.3406/bmsap.1971.2015

[5] “For Some People of Appalachia, Complicated Roots”, NPR, 2012 https://www.npr.org/2012/07/11/156611575/for-some-people-of-appalachia-complicated-roots

[6] Price, Edward T. “The Melungeons: A Mixed-Blood Strain of the Southern Appalachians.” Geographical Review 41, no. 2 (1951): 256–71. https://doi.org/10.2307/211022.

[7] Hashaw, Tim “MALUNGU: The African Origin of the American Melungeons”, Ecletica, 2001 https://www.eclectica.org/v5n3/hashaw.html

[8] “What is Creole?” , Laura Plantation, https://www.lauraplantation.com/creole-history/what-is-creole

[9] Spitzer, Nicholas R. “Monde Créole: The Cultural World of French Louisiana Creoles and the Creolization of World Cultures.” The Journal of American Folklore 116, no. 459 (2003): 57–72. 


[11] Etienne-Gray, Tracé, “Black Seminole Indians” Texas State Historical Association, 1995 updated in 2020 https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/black-seminole-indians

[12] Perkins, Andrea, “The forgotten rebellion of the Black Seminole Nation”, People’s World, 2014 https://www.peoplesworld.org/article/the-forgotten-rebellion-of-the-black-seminole-nation/

[13] Winfield, Kristian “Kyrie Irving spent a day with his mother’s Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Now, his name is ‘Little Mountain’”, SB Nation, 2018 https://www.sbnation.com/2018/8/24/17778916/kyrie-irving-lakota-name-little-mountain-standing-rock-sioux-tribe-boston-celtics

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