Big this week was Londoner hair and travel blogger Georgina Lawton of Girl Unfurled‘s essay about being raised White by her Anglo-Irish parents who hid her mom’s infidelity and never admitting Georgina was mixed race.
Not until Lawton’s dad died of cancer a few years ago did Lawton learn the truth, but only after years of inner turmoil, a few awkward incidences of racial discrimination and lots self denial and confusion.
In sum, her mom had dipped out on her dad and they decided to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened despite having and obviously mixed race child. And they did it in their Lily White community, nonetheless! gasp!
It brings up issues about race, culture and identity.
Lawton knows that most of society only acknowledges “pure white” (or at least that looks so) and thus, once she learned the truth, she had no other alternative but to adjust to life as a black woman.–not that she would have much of a choice, otherwise.
Her awesome blog offers lots of personal introspection about coming to grips with her self, her hair and cultural expectations.
Juxtapose that with Paris Jackson, the eldest child of the late Michael Jackson and his nurse turned-wife before divorcing Debbie Rowe.
With Paris, you see a similar situation as Lawton, but it ends differently, for now.
Paris grew up in a family where most family members other than her siblings Prince- Michael and Blanket looked another race.
She only knows life in a black family with a black dad and was raised by her black grandmother from the age 11 after her dad passed away in 2009 at age 50.
The model and aspiring actress told Rolling Stones in a January cover article that she considers herself a black woman though the gorgeous 18-year old with green-blue eyes, bleached platinum blonde hair and chiseled Eurocentric features looks very White.
But like Lawton, she was just going one what her dad told her despite what others think.
“I consider myself black,” she told the magazine, adding dad “would look me in the eyes and he’d point his finger at me and he’d be like, ‘You’re black. Be proud of your roots.’ And I’d be like, ‘OK, he’s my dad, why would he lie to me?’ So I just believe what he told me. ‘Cause, to my knowledge, he’s never lied to me.”
However, race wasn’t discussed in Lawton’s home because it was never an issue for the majority of her family except her.
Lawton poignantly writes:
“Although outsiders had constantly laughed at the idea of my parents being my own, we had managed to live in a white world where race and identity were never discussed – probably because no one except me had to worry about it.”
Even after being questioned by others, Lawton says she was taught to be defensive. Her parents told her she had dark ancestry but it was hard to keep denying.
“It was the strangers and new acquaintances who deliberately popped my protective bubble of whiteness time and time again. In nightclub toilets, on the street, at school, they demanded to know where I was from. Was I adopted? Swapped at birth? Jamaican or Ethiopian? Their eyes often widened in surprise as I told them I identified as white; knowing smiles spread from the sides of their mouths. I was embarrassed and, with each question, I began to doubt my parents more. However, I still didn’t identify as black or mixed-race until around the age of 16 because I didn’t know anything else. And I believed what my parents told me.”
Like Lawton, Paris knows society has other ideas about her race.
“Most people that don’t know me call me white,” Paris conceded to the mag. “I’ve got light skin and, especially since I’ve had my hair blond, I look like I was born in Finland or something.” She points out that it’s far from unheard of for mixed-race kids to look like her – accurately noting that her complexion and eye color are similar to the TV actor Wentworth Miller’s, who has a black dad and a white mom.”
Similar to Lawton, Paris-Michael Katherine Jackson, dealt with her own inner turmoil about acceptance.
Paris had additionally struggles with living up to her dad’s legacy, hanging out with older kids in high school and dealing with cyber bullies, depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts.
One other BIG difference is that Paris can continue being what she identify as in childhood. That’s a privilege of looking the way she does.
She has more credibility than say Rachel Dolezal to the claim because Paris’ upbringing was genuinely black American, whereas Dolezal adopted another race and culture despite not having its history or cultural experiences until becoming an adult.
Paris gets to continue being what she wants. by God, she is Michael Jackson’s daughter! Of course she can identify how she wants.
I do think she might be turned down when she goes for a acting role that calls for an ethnic looking black woman but who knows. Prosthetics and movie magic can do wonders these days.
Lawton, on the other hand, doesn’t get to continue claiming to be White without people looking at her sideways.
It is all interesting stuff, isn’t it?
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