Shannon Mouton: Racially Ambiguous Woman???

Shannon Mouton

My name is Shannon and I’m Black. I have always known I am Black. My family and friends know I’m Black. At times there has confusion because I’m a fair-skinned Black woman. The confusion is usually with Latin men, who speak Spanish to me and I politely respond, “no hablo espanol.” Then they take a closer look at me, smile and move on. This has happened numerous times and is a regular occurrence in certain neighborhoods and countries. It was not until I began acting a few months ago that I even considered using this misidentification to my advantage.

I began putting my acting resume together and shared it with a fellow actor. She suggested, along with my actual race, I list the other ethnicities I can also play. It took me a minute to figure out exactly what she meant. I decided to stay true to myself and list only “African-American.” I am a Black woman and I want to play roles that are either Black or not-ethnically based. Much to my chagrin, it seems Hollywood has something different in mind.

I recently saw an advertisement looking for a “racially ambiguous” woman. What in the world? Who the heck is “racially ambiguous?” It hit me like a ton of bricks, I’m racially ambiguous…at least to some people. When Black folks see me, they see a sista; when Latinos see me, they see a senorita and I know I confuse the heck out of a lot of white folks. I can’t tell you the number of times a white person has asked, “What are you?

So, I revised my resume to read, “Ethnicity: Black (can play Hispanic, Middle Eastern or North African).” Has the pendulum swung so far that we are non-racial?

I may work as multi-ethnic, bi-racial or mixed, but I won’t live that way. It took me years to get over my hang-ups about being a fair-skinned, hiyella, redbone, light-bright Black woman. I am proud to be a Black woman, and while there is probably some white, American Indian and other in my ancestry, when I look in the mirror, I know who I am and I am wonderful.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda Sowards
    Oct 08, 2011 @ 01:54:13

    Shannon, you may be considered “racially ambiguous” but it’s nice to see that you’re not “racially ambivalent”. Great post.


  2. Tania
    Oct 29, 2011 @ 23:04:40

    Well put Amanda…

    Shannon, well written and girl, you are beautiful. I’m 1/2 Okinawan Japanese, 1/4 Danish and a 1/4 German. My father is dark skinned with black hair while my mother is a very light blue eyed blonde. I’m a blend of the two with big hazel almond eyes, dark hair and a “haole” nose. I often get mistaken for Portuguese, Hispanic or white. Although, I’m proud of each part of my heritage, growing up in Hawaii I felt very connected to the Japanese culture. When I was younger, I found it frustrating that people didn’t see me as “Japanese”. I’ve also had instances where I’ve been out with my Japanese father and received judgemental stares as they thought he was my May December date. As I get older and have a stronger sense of self, I’m no longer bothered. I feel I can easily fit in anywhere and I can use my cultural pride and background to educate others.


  3. Darcella Craven
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 15:41:12

    LOL I love it. Good to know the rest of us have been asked “what are you” too. As a woman who has a white mom (German/French) and a black dad (African who knows what actual country) it has been a very interesting journey. In my 41 years people now assume I am black because that is the community that I fit into, however, my two sisters are still struggling. My older sister, prefers to not tell anyone she has any “white blood” , and my youngest prefers to not say she has “black blood” (lol whatever that means). Shame really, they spend so much time trying to figure you that out they do not live.

    Loving the skin I am in (well maybe there could be a little less of it but that is another blog.)


  4. ShannonRenee (@ShannonRenee)
    Nov 03, 2011 @ 19:51:36

    The American melting isn’t creamy smooth, it definitely has some lumps in it. Lumps of insecurity, prejudice, self-hatred and denial. They’ll eventually dissolve, it just may not be in our lifetime.


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