I am a Half-Breed Mongrel. In fact, I invented the term (not that anyone seems to want to steal credit from me). I coined the term not as an expression of self-loathing, but as my un-PC way to describe the growing army of people whose parents didn't have the discipline to breed with their own kind. Some of us were created this way by accident, and some by design--as if part of some misguided experiment to mutate the human species. But however we were created, we're all here, an odd assortment of strange-looking schizophrenics who don't quite fit in.
There are other terms to describe people of mixed race. Samoans use the term "afa-kasi," but that's too particular for general use. "Hapa" is too PC. I think of Half-Breed Mongrel, or HBM, as a little like the "N" word--not the "N" word ending with "er" that some whites used to hurl at African-Americans, but the "N" word ending with "a" that some African-Americans use affectionately with each other.
HBMs have a special tie to one another. I was talking to the computer guy at my new job and we had an instant bonding mini-thrill when we figured out that we were both mongrels. Why would a Japanese Portugese find kinship with a Jewish Samoan? Because we're HBM, dude! He went back and emailed me the names of other HBMs at the firm.
The term first came to me spontaneously a few years ago when I was an attorney at an old-time New York law firm, interviewing a law student for a summer job. She mentioned that she was half Japanese and half white. Without divulging my own impure origins, I said: "So you're a Half-Breed Mongrel." I said it with a straight face and a disapproving tone, as if to say: "You won't fit in here." At first, a look of disbelief came across her mongrel face; perhaps she was wondering if I had Tourette's Syndrome. Then, she seemed to notice my own incongruent features and realized that I was putting her on. Had she chosen to get offended, joke or no joke, she seriously could have gotten me fired. But she didn't get offended, because HBMs are cool people. She accepted our offer of employment and became my HBM colleague.
It has been said that anti-Semitism, racism and other similar phenomena are rooted in the fundamental human fear of "The Other." That's bad news for HBMs. We are the ultimate "Other." That's even the box that we all have to check on all those nosy forms that ask us what race we are. "Other" defines our identity.
But this group of "Others" is coming into its own. Our numbers are growing by leaps and bounds. To all you HBM-haters out there, it's time to back off. So what if we look funny? I've seen some pretty ugly purebreds in my time. And how many cultures do you have? Only one, you say? How boring. And look at all the cool people we've got: Tiger Woods, Alicia Keys, Halle Berry, The Rock, Keanu Reeves, Jessica Alba, Norah Jones, Cameron Diaz, Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Hines Ward, Jason Kidd. On the other hand, what do Adolph Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, and Idi Amin have in common? That's right. They were NOT HBM. You can add to that list Attila the Hun, who, had he been HBM, would have been known as "Attila the Half-Hun."
OK, so maybe I stacked the deck there just a little. I suppose that non-HBMs have an occasional OK person that I could have put on their list, like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King. But there are logical reasons why I believe that HBMs tend to be cool people. For one thing, we're forced to see the world from at least two perspectives. That's twice as many perspectives as many people ever acquire in their entire lives.
HBMs have an innate understanding that there are usually at least two valid ways of looking at most issues. That's a fundamental first step to accepting and finding common ground with other people. That doesn't mean that HBMs are all wishy washy moral relativists incapable of saying that anything is better than anything else. It simply means that we don't start out of the box with the rigidity of thinking that might afflict some of our non-HBM friends. In fact, that's why I think that HBMs tend to be good at thinking "outside of the box."
Also, it's hard to hate people who aren't your kind when you aren't even exactly your kind. Who am I supposed to hate? Everyone who isn't half Samoan and half Jewish (including my parents)? That's why HBMs tend to be inherently at ease with the fact that the world is made up of many different kinds of people with different perspectives, and that reasonable people can sometimes disagree. I think that it's no coincidence that Hawaii, the state that has a higher percentage of HBMs than any other, is famous for its "Aloha spirit." And I'm not the first to suggest that inter-marriage, and hence the creation of more HBMs, is the path to a more peaceful, tolerant future.
Right now, the hottest HBM going is Barack Obama. I'm actually supporting John McCain for President because of I'm much more closely aligned with his political philosophy, I trust his experience and judgment and I believe he has demonstrated extraordinary character over the course of his life. But that doesn't mean that I'm not proud of Barack Obama or that I'm not inspired by his hopeful, post-partisan rhetoric. And even though I have good faith differences of opinion with Obama on policy, I sure like the way that he represents us HBMs on the national stage. Most people will think of Obama as the first African-American President if he were to get elected (sorry, Bill Clinton), and that would certainly be an historical milestone given our country's history. But it would also be of great significance that he would be our first HBM President. That, too, would suggest volumes about how far race relations have come in America.
Even though Obama's political views are strongly to one side of America's political spectrum, he does not demonize those on the other side. That's very HBM, and it's the reason that most Republicans like Obama much better than the more centrist Hillary Clinton. McCain, by the way, also has a very HBM ability to work harmoniously with people from the other party--which is why I'm starting to have suspicions about his ancestry.
So a McCain-Obama race, because of the personalities of both men, would hopefully be waged with an HBM vibe and an HBM spirit. And regardless of who wins, reasonable, collaborative, open-minded HBMs everywhere will have reason to celebrate the ascendancy of our way of looking at the world.
So c'mon, HBMs, throw your hands in the air, and wave them all around like you just don't care. Stand up, be proud, and shout out loud:
HBM 'til I die!