The number of people who have both a black and Mexican parent in that Los Angeles started ballooning in the 1980s and ‘90s, when Mexican immigrants began moving into South LA’s black neighborhoods in large numbers, and people started getting together and creating families.
Like Melissa Adams and Alex Tillman, many have struggled to explain their racial identity to the outside world, and sometimes even to understand it themselves.
Much of this has to do with the fact that biracial identity in the United States has often been understood in terms of black and white. And to the extent that labels are helpful for quickly self-identifying, they don’t always exist for the diversity of racial possibilities that mixed Americans increasingly want to see recognized. When it comes to mixed-race in America, Mexican-American author Richard Rodriguez has written, we rely on an “old vocabulary — black, white,” but, “we are no longer a black-white nation.”
This may be why in LA, many young people who are both black and Mexican are turning to a handy word to describe themselves: “Blaxican.”
Photo: Courtesy of Walter Thompson-Hernandez
Caption: A selection of participants who identify as black and Mexican in Walter Thompson-Hernandez’s Instagram project, Blaxicans of L.A.