Mixed Like Me

Interracial roadtrip documentary takes Civil Rights out of monochrome

If you're mixed and your life unfolds, as does mine, in a borderland between races and cultures, then your roster of experiences will include not only fielding the notorious "What are you?" question, but also being constantly informed of "what you are" by others, whether intimates or total strangers. Understandably, most attempts to shed light on mixed-race experiences focus obsessively on "identity," even as they bring out larger issues of race and racism. These themes are at the heart of Chasing Daybreak: A Film About Mixed Race in America, a new feature-length documentary by the MAVIN Foundation, a preeminent mixed-race advocacy group.

Directed by Justin Leroy and produced by MAVIN founder and president Matt Kelley, Chasing Daybreak was set for release on January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. It chronicles the "Generation MIX National Awareness Tour," which sent five variously mixed 20-somethings on a 10,000 mile, six-week roadtrip across the U.S. and back in a colorful 26-foot RV with the words "Generation MIX" splashed all over it. During and between the tour's 16 stops, the five travelers filmed themselves and one another, debating and holding forth on the meaning of being mixed. The release date is fitting as the film takes its title from and opens with a King quote that reads, "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality." The film asks what role a multiracial movement could play in the eradication of racism, though the implications of the King quote wind up under-explored. But the film does a decent job in its stated aim of raising awareness about the increasing numbers of mixed people in the U.S.

Chasing Daybreak's more interesting moments range from the recounting of meeting a Southern sheriff who asked the group, "What ethnicity are you guys?", to their meeting in D.C. with Senator Barack Obama, who tells them their identity concerns are pretty much the same as those of all young people.

Also noteworthy is how different the participant's experiences of being mixed race are. You see Ashley, blond and fair, lamenting not looking mixed enough and being hurt to the point of tears about the flack she gets from people who deem her too white. And you see Charlie, a blend of Thai, Chinese, and Burmese, also challenged for not being mixed enough, in his case because his identities can easily fall under the rubric of "Asian American."

As producer Matt Kelley puts it, the film is "not trying to be fancy." It is not about experts waxing eloquent on mixed race matters, but more about engaging viewers in an accessible way. With its eye to the realm between races, Chasing Daybreak illuminates facets of race and racism that don’t often get the attention they deserve. To go places geographically is to go places ideologically. And in this case, five mixed people traversing a literal landscape gets to the ideological heart of America's racial landscape.

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video: 'You always feel out of place, but you can always blend in a little bit.'
image: MAVIN Foundation/'Chasing Daybreak'
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video: Meeting with Senator Obama
image: MAVIN Foundation/'Chasing Daybreak'
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video: In Montgomery, the Civil Rights memorial
image: MAVIN Foundation/'Chasing Daybreak'
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video: Broken down in Alabama
image: MAVIN Foundation/'Chasing Daybreak'
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video: 'Hey, Ashley, What percentage of African American are you?'
image: MAVIN Foundation/'Chasing Daybreak'

 
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