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(Not) White: The Autobiography of My Biracial Body Open Access


Other title
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Blystone, Brittney
Supervisor and department
Williamson, Janice (English & Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
TallBear, Kim (Native Studies)
Zackodnik,Teresa (English & Film Studies)
Department of English and Film Studies
Date accepted
Graduation date
2016-06:Fall 2016
Master of Arts
Degree level
(Not) White: The Autobiography of my Biracial Body combines historical research with creative nonfiction and autobiography. I trace the history of scientific racism from the late 1800s to 1960s, from the American Emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement, from the era of my white great-great-grandmother’s birth to the era of my Filipino mother’s. Rather than arguing or defining races, I play with the structure of historical and scientific research to express and explore my life as a biracial woman in the cultural, political context that surrounds and influences this identity. My thesis aims to reveal scientific racism’s ongoing influence in contrast to my maternal line and my personal experiences. It aims to leave the reader emotionally invested yet unsure of racial categories. Biracial bodies may seem like valid proof against races as strict categories; however, biracial people do not control racial categories—even as it pertains to their privileged/unprivileged body. As with other people of colour, biracial women cannot easily locate their personal history or cultural views in the formation of their identity. Even when biracial people pass as white and receive white privileges, they never receive the privilege of defining themselves, especially contrary to racial profiling. Whiteness can only be bestowed or be withdrawn. Those with privilege over racial categories constantly categorize and re-categorize biracial bodies without considering nonphysical aspects, such as family relationships, community ties, and the biracial person’s relationship to their body. External, automatic racial categorization occurs because cultural ties are still seen as supposedly apparent from physical characteristics: as clear, real, and definitive as my “Asian nose.” This supports the myth of biological race and dismisses a biracial person’s complex relations to families, cultures, communities, and their body. The privilege to “objectively” categorize people of colour stems from the creation and solidification of race itself through the long history of scientific racism. Objectifying the bodies of non-white and non-Western people, Western scholars created racial categories disguised as objective facts discovered and formulated by only them. When they labeled race as a scientific fact, they streamlined racial and cultural identification by dismissing other claims like a biracial person’s right to self-definition and to theorize and self-examine their bodies and their ties to white and non-white communities. Today, this system of race gives others the primary authority to question and decide my racial identity. As long as others see race as a purely biological and self-evident organization of humanity, my connections to my body, cultures, and families are meaningless. My autobiography would become a powerless attempt at self-interrogation and describing my Filipino ties beyond white-centred definitions. Even as a biracial women connected to both white and Asian communities, self-proclaiming any identity does not guarantee me the identity I claim. My autobiography cannot simply follow a journey of insular introspection and self-discovery like many autobiographies. With each chapter focused on a racialized body part, my thesis neither traces an apolitical self nor traces a bloodline to an inherited race; rather, it traces oppressive racial definitions and ultimately revels their fiction so I may become the primary scholar of my identity, ties, and body, so I may juxtapose racist hegemony with the web of cultures, relationships, privileges, and disadvantages a part of biracial identities. Without usurping scientific racism, another’s “analysis” of my skin whitewashes and over-simplifies the multicultural story of my grandmother, my mother—and me.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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