Taye Diggs’s Remarks About Son Spark Race Controversy: ‘Wake Up, People’

Taye Diggs kicked off a controversy while promoting his latest children’s book, Mixed Me!, when he revealed that he wants his son Walker to be labeled “mixed” instead of “black.” 

“I think when you [call biracial people black], you risk disrespecting half of who you are,” the black actor told The Grio about his decision regarding the 6-year-old he co-parents with his ex, Broadway star (and the voice of Elsa in Frozen) Idina Menzel, who is Caucasian. “I don’t want my son to be in a situation where he calls himself black and everybody thinks he has a black mom and a black dad, and then when they see he has a white mother, they’re like, “What’s going on? Are you ashamed?’”

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After Twitter comments flooded in asking the father if he was “afraid” or “scared” of his son’s being labeled black, Diggs dug in even deeper on the issue. “I am a proud black man,” he wrote on a note posted on his Instagram Thursday. “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.” 

Menzel and Diggs with their son, Walker. (Photo: AP)

If one day Walker announced that he wanted to be called white, Diggs told TMZ Live on Friday, “I would say, ‘Good luck with that.’ That’s what I would say. But that’s his choice. His choice.” 

And the choice to talk about this question is an important one, says Jabari Asim, author of The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why, an academic and editor of The Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP

“From a political standpoint, it is probably in the best interests of African-Americans to have those of mixed race count themselves as part of the black population,” the Emerson College professor of writing, literature, and publishing tells Yahoo Parenting. “Some observers have made a pretty good argument that the civil rights movement might not have happened without the combined political might of biracial people and people with two black parents. Still, I can’t help wondering if this isn’t a conversation best given over to people who are biracial.” 

Halle Berry, for example, has spoken out about her decision to identify as black. “Trying to be in the middle, trying to be both, just isn’t working for me,” the actress admitted on Inside the Actors Studio a few years ago. “It’s just further ostracized me from either group.” Berry has also spoken out about how she thinks of her biracial daughter Nahla as black too, though she’s said she’ll let Nahla determine what label she will use herself. “If you’re of multiple races, you have a different challenge, a unique challenge of embracing all of who you are but still finding a way to identify yourself, and I think that’s often hard for us to do,” said the actress.

“Self-designation is inseparable from self-determination, in my view,” Asim adds, asking, “I wonder if those of us who aren’t biracial would be better off minding our own business?” 

(Top photo: Getty Images)

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