Monday, March 10, 2008

On Jennifer Beals

Jennifer Beals (photo courtesy JenniferBealsOnline)

As I mentioned yesterday, I watched season 2 of The L Word on my blogging break. In all honesty I'm not sure if I would watch The L Word if it were not for Jennifer Beals being on the show and playing a Major role in the series. Jennifer Beals is my favorite actress. I have a bunch of her movies on DVD and even though she has been in more than a few bad movies I am always willing to watch her act.

Coincidentally yesterday I was looking through the archives over at the blog AngrygayblackCanadianman and found a post that mentioned The L Word. I left a comment to which Orville, the blogger, replied to. Basically he stated in the post that there were no Black actresses in The L Word until season 4. I left a comment that Jennifer was on the show and that she was Black. He replied that she's bi-racial.

That struck me because I just see Jennifer Beals as being a Black woman. Yes she is bi-racial, her dad was African American and her mom is Irish American. But for some reason I just don't make that distinction with her, to me she is simply a Black woman.

But it is not lost on me that others may view Jennifer as being bi-racial or even White.

I wonder why I don't identify her, Jennifer, as being bi-racial? I think of Halle Berry as being bi-racial but Alicia Keys as being Black. I don't really have an answer as to why I see Halle as being bi-racial and Jennifer and Alicia Keys as being Black. Could it be as simple as I am not a fan of Halle's and therefore I have no interest in claiming her as Black?

Alicia Keys
Is Race Fluid?

But as I think about it I may have come to think of Jennifer Beals as being Black over time. I don't really recall thinking of her as Black as I watched her in the film Flashdance although I was aware that she was bi-racial at the time. Also, interestingly I remember thinking of Tiger Woods as being Black when he first began making headlines as a golfer and now I think of Tiger Woods as being Asian.

The Irish were not considered White when they first began to immigrate to the U.S. in large numbers in the 1800's. Now Irish Americans are definitely considered White. Many people say that Asian Americans may one day be considered White as well.

I know that the concept of race is a social construct and as such maybe its definitions are fluid. Maybe race has to do more with perception and acceptance than skin color or origin?

Or does the fluidity of race have more to do with certain groups or even individuals seeking the privilege of another group? Does Tiger Woods want to be perceived as anything but Black to increase his social standing?

Tiger Woods and family

And how could I not consider the bi-racial identity of Senator Barack Obama. Does his bi-racial identity give him greater acceptance amongst other groups? And does he receive this acceptance because some may view him as being less Black?

A lot of this of course has it's origins in Black - White relations in America. I'm sure that all of you are aware of the one drop rule. Which basically stated that if a person was 99% White and just 1% Black, they were to be considered Black. The thought being that Black blood polluted White blood.

So I wonder if who we identify with as being of our race has more complicated explanations than just skin tone and the usual race identifiers. Maybe since race is really a mass hallucination there is no sense to be made of how it plays out.

What do you think?

Do you think of Halle, Tiger, Alicia and Jennifer as being bi-racial (or multi-racial in Tiger's case) or Black?

Is race fluid; do your racial perceptions change over time?


kayoz said...

dear mdc,
i actually gave not much thought on those people's race so far.
as you said, race is more a social construct than anything else...

connected to the perception of race is not the skin color only, but a whole bunch of cultural settings, norms and values that shape our perception of people and their behavior as being a member of a certain race/ ethnic group and which shape of course one's self-understanding of one's own position in society with regard to culture and race...

behavior, attitudes, norms & values which are stereotyped as that of a certain race might be the reason why some well-known people are perceived as belonging to one race rather than another or of being bi-/multi- racial...

jjbrock said...

MDC welcome back and a great question. You know what I never consider jennifer black but the others I have. I don't know why that is the case. To me Jennifer could check white and get away with it. I don't think any one else you mention could possible do that not even the Senator from Illinois. Too me Tiger Woods looks more black than Asian.

12kyle said...

MDC...welcome back again...

I've always seen bi-racial people as being black. For a long time in this country, we operated under the "1/8th rule." It was a theory that was created that said if you had an 1/8th of black blood then you were considered to be black. Although they don't feel that way anymore, it makes you think. Some who are bi-racial can get by without even acknowledging their black heritage.

I will admit that while I'm a fan of Tiger Woods but I was pissed off that he let that white friend of his make those on air comments about "lynching" him. No self respecting black man would let ANY man say that about him. He should have stood up. I felt like he was tap dancing for the white folk.

T.I.C. said...

I think of all of tem as being black. If your father is black, then you are considered black because you are from your father's seed. If your mother is black you are considered bi-racial because your mother is the reciever of the seed from someone other than a black man.

Maybe one day we will get to a point where color dosen't matter. We will just look at the person and say Tiger Woods, male, Halle Berry, female, and that would be enough.

Homeland Colors said...

I feel like you should be able to be whatever you want to be, but the society that one lives in will determine race to a certain extent no matter what, a least in the United States. Glad to see you didn't take to long of a break mes.

Anonymous said...

Why would you think Jennifer Beals is black, the woman never has identified as such?
Biracial people are not calling themselves black anymore. Most of them have white mothers who do not want them to be considered a part of the lowest class which is black. If they are viewed a biracial they hope they will get a little more status

PCD (Pretty Circle Drawer) said...

i see them all as black. we ALL are mixed up with so many things and sometimes people take it too ofar trying to break down that they are 1/16th this and 2/45ths if there is black in there, i just round to black...kinda like decimals...i just round up *sniggle* (i think the nyquil is typing)

Danielle said...

I haven't thought about it alot. I usually go by how people define themselves. I never really viewed Jennifer Beals as black.

She rocked the whole ambiguous vibe for so much of her career that I guess I just never saw her as a black woman.

As for Tiger, he has defined who he is and that is a man of multi ethnic/racial background and I leave it at that.

I view Alicia and Halle as black women because that is how they've defined themselves and they've made themselves a part of the community.

It goes beyond shade or color. Being black is more than that. It's a state of being, a way of viewing the world and a culture among so many other things.

Great question as always MDC

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

Great post MDC!!!

That's so funny that you consider Jennifer Beals as black -- I totally see her as white. In fact, I didn't even remember that she is in fact bi-racial!!!

I see Alicia Keys, Halle Berry, Faith Evans, Mariah Carey and Barack Obama as black. However, I do not see Tiger Woods as black; maybe it's because I CAN'T STAND HIM!!!!

mrshadow33 said...

I believe that all of them are Black. There is nothing wrong with also saying that you are bi-racial but then again aren't many of us mixed with other races/cultures? Hopefully one day all of this won't matter.

Unfortunately, the tricky and slippery issue of race won't be going away anytime soon.

Great to have you back MDC.

Don said...

Welcome back, Mes.

I used to think race wasnt fluid but now I do. Thats probably because of the things Ive witnessed in my 35 years which lead me to believe this to be truth. I think Tiger Woods may have made statements to increase his social standing. Either that or he wanted to show the ethnicity of both parents. I think of both Halle and Alicia as being black. But, like you, Ive never thought of Beals as being black. Maybe it was how she was casted.

Don said...

Oh, my bad, I thought you said you didnt consider her as being "just black." I stand corrected. Ive never really saw her as being black.

Bam said...

I found this post interesting because when I first began blogging or even establishing an identity on the net I used to list that I was multiracial or specify the strongest of my racial make up, Portuguese followed by black. The funny thing is, if you want to do the math, I am the least Black of any of the cultures I am made up of. Over time that transformed into me referring to myself as only Black and now, on my site, I don't even specify.

I guess at the end of the day, we cling to that which we identify with. That can be a race, or a culture as well as a certain class or set of people. I can't imagine thinking of Halle as not "Black," but I can totally understand why someone wouldn't.

Race can be played with in terms of what someone is because many of us can't know what we are wholly due to a number of unfortunate historic events. Simultaneously, one my take the perspective to cling to the very same historic events as reason to stand as a Black Man or Woman. It's always been about perception... Most likely always will.


Ensayn1 said...

It appears to me the only people that are considered "bi-racial" are the children of Black people and white people. I don't see anyone calling Keanu Reeves Asian. I have known many people that had a Japanese or Filipino parent and a Black parent and the conversation of "Bi-racial" never comes up. I think there is a double standard at play here.

La ~ msviswan said...


Well, you hit a nerve with me on Tiger. I don't even consider him "black" anymore (I don't even consider MJ black anymore). You know, it's one thing for Tiger not to claim his "blackness", I would give him a break if he said he was just "blasian". However, Tiger purposely puts in the "cauc" to claim "whiteness" of some distant gran relative. Look at his friends he chooses to associate with, and who he choose to be his wife. I find that to be a serious anti-Black message and self hatred. He is clearly stating he is not a black man. He's mud to me. I have much more respect for Obama.

As for Jen, I never looked at her even as bi-racial, I found her to be closer to white. Not only in looks, but how she identifies herself and the fact that her father was partially black himself (I think). Halle and Alicia, I could accept as being black (I don't like either). My father and his siblings are bi-racial, and they have always considered themselves black. I guess it also depends on appearance, and how society views you, as well as self-identification. I guess.

SheCodes said...

I see them all as biracial. I also see black/white mixed people as being a subset of 'blackness', instead of being outside of it.

Maybe that's because my mother is racially mixed. But I don't see this form of mixed people as completely separate and distinct from black people as a whole... it's more of a 'different flavor of black' to me. (and I suppose, it could be seen as a 'different flavor of white' too, but I never thought about it that far)

Mes Deux Cents said...


"norms and values that shape our perception "

That's true, that is what makes me wonder if race is a fluid thing.



I agree; Jennifer certainly would have the option to choose.


I think Tiger like Michael Jordan is more concerned about making money than standing up for anything.

I wonder if someone made a slur toward him that involved his Asian heritage would he be silent.


Maybe we all will reach a point when each person can decide for themselves.

It's nice to be back!


I just watched an episode of The L Word in which Ossie Davis played Jennifer's dad. So I think that is acknowledging her Blackness.





"It's a state of being"

I agree with you on that.


I'm kind of on the fence about Mariah but I understand what you mean about Jennifer.

Mr. S,

I think race issues are actually heating up a bit. I think the 90's were less racially charged than now.

Thanks, it's nice to be back!


Well like I said, I can understand that a lot of people don't view Jennifer as being Black.

And thanks. :)


Wow, so the way that you view yourself racially has changed? That adds to the thought that race is fluid.

Thanks for stopping by!


It is interesting that depending on the racial make up people are categorized differently.

La ~ msviswan,

I share your disdain for Tiger. He has some serious issues.


I agree, but for me I think it has a lot to do with if I like them or not. Lol

Anonymous said...

The question is what do these people consider themselves? What other people consider them is something they will undoubtedly have to deal with but what they consider themselves is something they will have to live with. I personally am Native-American (by blood and Tribal Card registered)and African-American.
Although I appear as African-American , I identify mostly as Native because I was born, raised and continue to live in the exact region originally inhabited by the tribe I descend from. Over the years some African -Americans friends and relatives have told me I should fall in line and just consider myself Black. I've been quick to point out that I am Black and have always been but just not singularly Black and NEVER will be. To deny my native ancestry while still living on Native soil would be an insult they might be willing to show there own ancestors but I'm not willing to show mine,
reminding them that Blacks, Whites and others came here to America not the other way around and the truth of the matter is that this is my ancestral home the "one Drop" or any other rule that denies the truth be damned.

My suggestion to bi-racial people is don't deny who you are to gain favor with any group. If they can't accept the truth move on, you owe them nothing.


tasha212 said...

I always think of them as black. Maybe because in Louisiana very light skinned people who are obviously "mixed" are considered to be black.

Mes Deux Cents said...


I think it's all a matter of perception. So I can certainly understand your point of view.

Gunfighter said...

To your question... is race fluid?

Yes, it is... for some people.

People should identify however they please... including Tiger Woods.

Baby Please said...

Sometimes I view biracial people as biracial and sometimes I view them as black.

I see Halle Berry as black and Alicia Keys as black. I see Vin Diesel as biracial, though.

Franky, I've not given much thought to such matters; so prolly can't answer intelligently.

It's just a perception based on -- I don't know -- cuz I've not thought about it enough.

I watch L Word. On that show, I don't see Beals as black or biracial, really. It's hard to explain.

I see her as a hot mess, always fukin up. LOL. Po thang. She always be conflicted. I like old Bet, though. Huh and Tina be a hot mess. Poor Jodi. {sign} Jodi ain't gon take that lyin down. And what the hell is goin' on with Max??!! I so don't get that. And... Oops. Sorry.


roslynholcomb said...

I tend to think of people as the way they identify themselves. The only thing I've seen Beals in is Flashdance. I assumed she was a white woman, therefore I generally think of her as white. Berry and Keys say they're black, so, to me, they're black. Folk who identify as biracial, I think of as biracial.

Anonymiss said...


I would definitely consider all of whom you mentioned (minus Tiger) as Black while still acknowledging that they're multiracial.

I guess race is not all that fluid cuz everytime I see Jennifer Beals, I wonder "She's Black?" I stare at her features and I really can't see anything "Black" except for her eyes and that can easily be overlooked.

Even with A. Keys (who's pretty fair-skinned and Latin looking) and some other multiracials, you can see their "Negro eyes" (Nella Larson).

Mes Deux Cents said...


That's good advice.



I think Tiger is a little confused. Lol

Baby Please,

That's interesting because I always think of Vin as being White.

Okay lay off Bette!!! Lmao...



You're right; it's ultimately up to the individual to define who they are.

Mes Deux Cents said...


There are times when Jennifer looks really Black to me but there are also times when she looks really ambiguous.

I agree that Alicia could definitely be Puerto Rican.

Lol@negro eyes.

Anonymous said...

it's interesting that there are people who dislike tiger because he reps ALL of his ancestry and married a white woman. jealousy?

if he wasn't rich and proud of being mixed, most of his detractors wouldn't have jack to say.

Anonymous said...

As the non-African American partner in an interracial marriage and the mother of 2 multi-racial children, I have to say I found it a little disturbing how many people stated that they view someone as a different race then that person views themselves. In raising our children, my husband and I felt that the most important thing was for us to educate our children on all aspects of their heritage and then let them decide for themselves where they feel they fit in racial society. There is nothing wrong with people of mixed backgrounds such as Jennifer Beals, Mariah Carey, and Tiger Woods identifying themselves as bi-racial or multi-racial people. There is also nothing wrong with people of mixed backgrounds such as Alicia Keys, Halle Berry, and Faith Evans identifying themselves as being Black. I think the problem is when society starts trying to tell these people HOW they should identify themselves. It takes us right back to the "one drop rule and 1/8th rule". These practices are archaic and demeaning to the people involved, by not allowing them to see themselves for who they feel they are inside but rather who society feels they should identify with.

CamilleC said...

Agree with pp. I am multi-racial (mom is black by way of French and Native American descendants) and father is white by way of French, Irish, Cherokee and Choctaw). All these ethnicities make me feel more American than people who identify with just one race. Frankly, I do not deny any of the races that make up my background and I'm not offended if anyone sees me as "just black" but it is weird that someone else feels the need to comment on what race a bi-racial person "really" is. I just don't get it. Seriously, most Americans are racially diverse. I want to undergo genetic testing so I can learn more about my DNA. I love talking with both sides of my family about my ancestors and am thankful that I do know so much about where I came from.

Anonymous said...

I consider Halle bi-racial, Alicia as black and Jennifer as white. I see Tiger Woods and Barrack Obama as black. With the women, I think I see them as who they identify with, hence the difference in my view of Halle and Alicia on the 'race line'. I didn't know that Jennifer Beals was not 'white' until I read it, I could not tell by looking at her nor listening to her accent, so I thought she was white. I am more likely to group a man as black even if he is light skinned and mixed. I'm not sure if this is a straggling thought process from the past (1 drop rule) or if this is because I have dated several men of mixed heritage (black and white) and they all identified as black. They explained that if they walked into a room of white men, they would not be accepted as white, but if they walked into a room of black men, they would be accepted as black, if not ridiculed for thier light skin.

What I'm witnessing among the teens today is that they seem to have taken our progress further, they don't seem to care about race and I have heard black teens who say they have never even expereinced racism. I think heritage is very interesting, so i hope that we do not become all one color and looks, we are all beautiful in our own unique way, carrying on the genes of our ancestors.

Basically, though I group all of these famous people of mixed blood in one category or another, it doesn't matter to me what color they are, it's inconsequencial except in the sense that I have to be mindfull that it may have 'colored' their past and they may be sensistive about it.

Diversity is beautiful. Embrace it.

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About Me

West Coast, United States
African American, Poet?, Vegetarian, Music lover, Agoraphobic, Social Phobic

My Favorite Poet

My Favorite Poet
Staceyann Chin

My Favorite Track Athlete

My Favorite Track Athlete
Christine Arron