A Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, was once quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” Many of us can relate to this timeless sentiment, as human life is constantly changing on the individual and societal level. Countries, in this regard, are no exception. According to a recent Pew study, in 33 years (2050) the U.S. will look very different racially. More and more citizens are projected to identify as multiracial–a trend we’ve seen growing since 2000. According to The U.S. Census Bureau, in the year 2000 6.8 million people checked more than one racial box. By 2010 that figure had increased to nearly 9 million, a spike of about 32%.
So what does that mean? It means that more and more there is a growing group in this country who feel that they cannot be simply placed into one racial category. Yet, what if that is exactly what society is trying to make them do? This is a battle we see taking place in the new documentary I am or How Jack Became Black.
Having premiered on Tuesday, February 21, I am or How Jack Became Black takes a unique look at the various race controversies in America. The documentary spawned out of a real-life scenario filmmaker Eli Steele had to endure, in which he was forced to pick a race for his children. From there we’re taken on a journey in which Steele’s son and daughter– third multiracial generation children – became one race: Black.
Filmmaker Steele uses the film to ask the question: What will this fate, where more and more individuals are identifying as mixed race, mean to a nation that has been tormented by race throughout its history? For Steele, the answer would lie within countless multiracial Americans found across the United States– so he set out to find them.
As a statement from the press release for the documentary explains, “It [the film] became a study of Identity Politics – with its promise of redeeming America from the old ethos of white supremacy. It became a chance to explore the racial rows making today and tomorrow’s headlines in places like the George Zimmerman trial and a conference on White privilege.”
Eli Steele, in speaking directly with TBG, explained, “I could not be born profoundly deaf and the child of an interracial and interfaith marriage and not deal with issues of race and identity my whole life… I always refused to give into these pressures to choose one race and part of the answer to why I chose that path lies in my family history. The story of how my paternal grandfather, born to slaves, became a very educated man despite segregation, affected me just as profoundly as the story of how my maternal grandfather rose to become a success after surviving the Holocaust. These stories formed the foundation of who I am.”
Steele believes that the film will show that, “race will always diminish the individual in favor of his or her racial group identity.” He went on to express that the main question he was trying to answer in the documentary was, “[what happens] if we live under a racial order that promises to redeem us from the sins of White Supremacy, but has instead trapped us in skin color?”
I Am or How Jack Became Black may have one questioning what box they fit into and how they came to fit into it. Are we ready for such a conversation in these turbulent political times?
Check out the trailer below