Actor Taye Diggs is creating controversy with his new children’s book, “Mixed Me!” that he authored because his own son, Walker, is half African-American and half Caucasian. Walker’s mom is Diggs’ ex-wife, Broadway star Idina Menzel.
While Diggs is trying to send the message that his son — and any mixed-race child — can identify with either side of their lineage, he has drawn plenty of criticism for the attempt.
He posted on Instagram shortly after the book was released, saying, “I am a proud black man. I want my son to grow up to be a proud black man if he so chooses. He has a mother who is white. He has every right to be just as proud of his mother’s “blood” as well. Please wake up, people. It’s not that deep.”
Many of Diggs’ Instagram followers did not agree, instigating a back-and-forth that called him disrespectful toward his own race and made fun of his desire to help his son make peace with his heritage. The anger the Instagram users had toward each other was probably a fair representation of why Diggs felt the need to write the book in the first place.
“You’ve lost fans in Australia too Taye!!” said one of Diggs’ followers. “Indigenous Australians no matter how dark. Brown, beige, fair skin with blonde and green eyes we are … We are so proud to identify as black!! Now you just confirmed it self-hater!”
In an interview with NPR, Diggs was asked what inspired him to write the book. He mentioned growing up with mixed-race cousins and mixed-race friends who confided in him the cultural pressure to have to identify with one race or the other.
“If you were mixed and chose to date outside the black race, you were looked at differently,” said Diggs. “And no one, it never seems, if anybody white or black really acknowledged the white side of the family. So I’ve had to deal with all of that through friends and family.”
The commentary under the NPR article was different than Instagram, though the reality of prejudice in public was an unfortunate theme.
“My husband is lily white and blonde haired,” wrote one person in the comments section. “A co-worker who was a guest at our wedding went on a rant against ‘mixing’ in FRONT of me, and when politely challenged (I noted, ‘My mom is White, and you’ve met my husband,’) she doubled down and went on about how unfair it was to The Children.”
It’s true that everyone’s experience is different depending on what part of the world they reside, but it’s also true that racism still exists.
Diggs is trying to change the way biracial children look at themselves, helping them to identify with both parents instead of feeling a need to choose. This attempt resulted in mockery from many of his Instagram followers.
Thankfully, research shows that multiracial children growing up with a healthy self-image is based upon the attitude of the parents.
“Multiracial children forced to choose a single-race identity tend to suffer from this inauthentic expression of self,” reads the article, “Raising Biracial Children to Be Well Adjusted.” “Unfortunately, society often pressures mixed-race individuals to choose just one race because of the outdated ‘one-drop rule’ which mandated that Americans with any African heritage be classified as black.
“It wasn’t until 2000 that the U.S. Census Bureau allowed citizens to identify as more than one race. That year the Census found that about 4% of children in the U.S. are multiracial.”
Society’s viewpoint on multiracial children will only change if people stand up to make a difference, which Diggs is doing with his book. His willingness to stand up and take heated criticism should be seen as nothing short of courageous.
“I wrote the book just in case there were questions and to definitely highlight who my son is and how he should feel about himself regardless of how he’s viewed by the outside world,” said Diggs.