fun fact: I’m biracial.
Well, to get technical bi would mean two and I’m much more than two. I’m sort of a white, black and Native American soup with a dash of Swedish, a table spoon of German, and a pinch of polish. At least that’s all I can remember from the lists my parents have told me. Generally speaking, however, my mother was a blonde haired, blue eyed white woman. My father was a dark haired, dark eyed black man. Here I am. I look like your coffee when you put just a tad more cream in it than you meant to- and genetic dominance rules stood their ground and I have dark eyes and dark, thick curly hair. I shade in the box that says, “two or more races” with every official form I’ve done in my life.
I’ve never taken a DNA test. So part of me, who knows exactly how much- is still a mystery even to myself. All I know is all I’ve had to work with. To be frank- it’s been more than enough to try to dissect, understand and own.
Being a mixed child has its own set of social struggles. My perspective on who I am has changed so much as I’ve grown. Whether they admit it or not, every multi-race individual kind of goes through this inevitable identity struggle.
Now you’re thinking, I have to choose which race I answer when I get that famous, inhumane, “what are you?” But have you ever thought of what thoughts calculate that decision, though? Who’s asking, what is more desirable, what am I proud of, what have I been conditioned to be ashamed of, what exactly do I want to represent? These aren’t things you process well when you’re five years old.
I grew the shell of my answer in my thoughts before I knew it was happening. Through the sting of, “your hair is so big,” and “your hair is so frizzy,” and then trying to control it and tame it, only to hear, “ew. Your hair is so greasy.”
To go home and watch the tv and see black women in roles where they’re in skimpy clothing, speaking recklessly and fighting. To see black men in roles where they are criminalized. To have my name made fun of and mispronounced. To be quickly summarized and described as “the/that black girl” rather than just by my name, a simple privilege the other kids had.
My child brain quickly learned being half black was a flaw.
White acceptance became gold to me. I was so relieved to see my white mother pull up and pick me up from school in front of all my friends. Who still couldn’t believe I wasn’t adopted.
Like any other girl, makeup enters the picture, different clothing, and for me-relaxers. (These are harsh chemical based permanent hair straighteners.) In other words- a perm. I layered and layered these treatments onto my curls. Dissapointented the very next day to see how many curls had survived. In and out of great clips, where the stylists would regularly tell my mother they weren’t comfortable cutting my hair- we’d ask for it to just be thinned. Please, just thin it out. I was inconvenienced and bitter about my hair. I was tired of my frizzy, thick, big hair.
I would bite my tongue and I would be especially polite always, I never wanted to be perceived as loud, angry or threatening. So much so, I regret to say I didn’t stand up for myself when I should have on multiple occasions. I wanted so badly to be loved and embraced by my non colored, non mixed friends, despite my blackness– that I became a lukewarm version of a human being to make sure I didn’t come off as, “too black.” Every move was calculated. Even then, I was met with comments that made me feel like an ‘it.’ Even then, mall security would watch me shop. Even then, the white boy I had the biggest crush on would never pay me any mind. And even if he did, I was just cute- for a black girl. Too much of a miss match to ever be seen on his arm. Still rejected by my peers, still on the outside, and more confused than ever.
Time went on. I tried something else then. I would go to the few black kids at school. Who all seemed go hang out with each other, and I finally understood why. They knew there was nothing to fear about their blackness. No matter how loud they laughed. No matter what style their hair was in. Their circle was their own safe space from judgement. I befriended them.
My escapism tactic blew up in my face. I learned, I “talked so white.” My ass was so flat. I was too sensitive, too weak. Sheltered and inexperienced. I packed more insecurities on my shoulders. The butt of all the jokes. I just wasn’t black enough. Once again, failure. I didn’t fit the mold. I still pondered who I was. In my quiet moments I knew I might always be a loner.
When I finally paid enough attention to detect the resentment towards me, I realized something.
This whole time I was hating myself, I was on a societal pedestal in the black community.
I had the light skin. I had the “good” hair. Soft European features. I may not have had the eyes of the most eligible white boys but I did have the eyes of the black ones. My teachers took the time to trust and get to know me. I had an innocence about me that a dark skinned girl would never be afforded. I was given chances and opportunities with less struggle. I was called back when I interviewed for high school jobs. People generally gave me the benefit of the doubt. The doubt that you are born associated to as a black human being.
My privilege finally looked me in the face. A privilege I never would have seen if I hadn’t caught a glimpse of the world through the eyes of the other side. The things I complained about, that I could almost erase with a flat iron- they could never escape from. This was the game changer.
When I saw the light skin pedestal the world created, a seat warmed and reserved only for mixed individuals with magical light colored eyes and small noses, looser curls and fairer skin- I wanted to kick the pedestal over.
By idolizing only European beauty, by buying into negative black stereotypes from the television, fearing and judging my own, for trying to erase every detail that led a clue to my other half, by reminding everyone I was mixed so I could be seen as something better than a full black individual, like I was some sort of exception for this, like I should be rewarded for not being entirely black– I realized I was a screw in the machine that destroys the confidence of beautiful dark colored people everywhere. How dare I take daily advantage of a bias that is so twistedly dangerous and detrimental to the well being of my people, their acceptance in society and diversity itself. Contributing to the very cycle that keeps full black girls under water, so I could breathe at the top.
This is why I do not advertise that I am mixed like some others do.
I can’t speak for every other biracial persons reasoning if they do paint this across all of their social media profiles or include it in every self description. I do know typically it is used as an insidious bragging right that has no actual bragging right. An all exclusive competition club where we see who got the best of both. The curves of a black girl, the hair or eye color of a white one. I’m no less-than-full-black unicorn. I’m just me. I’m not any better than a dark skinned girl. Do not compare me to one. I won’t tolerate being used to put one down. I am not picking and choosing what black/white features I want to benefit from today.
Heck, If natural curls weren’t making a trendy come back right now, would I have stopped relaxing my hair? I honestly don’t even know. Do I benefit from my ability to do or be both depending on the sway of the fashion season? Yes. Absolutely. However I’m estatic we are currently creating a wave that embraces natural black beauty when it has been shunned for otherwise the entirety of history. I’m here for it. If you follow my Instagram, you’ll see I’m on my own natural hair journey. I want to be my truest self. That is the biggest and most important milestone I’ve made yet.
These days, I live my life transparently and I aim to bridge the gap that still exists between people of different races. I am not the perfect “medium,” I am just one of many combinations of a human. And as a human, as aly to all humans I want everyone afforded the same chances and rights as others. I want beauty to have less freaking stipulations. I want us to stop treating each other like “its” just because we are different. I want girls of all colors to share a damn table in a high school lunch room.
We wont get there tomorrow. We probably won’t even get there by the time my son sits at a high school lunch table. Or the the first time he is pulled over for s traffic citation. Tears well in my eyes at the thought of society labeling or rejecting my beautiful child. Although black passing- with rich brown skin, He is mixed too. I’m just grateful I can be there for him to help him gain a rounded perspective on who he is, all of who he is, before he is burned by his own limitations and traditional ignorance taught by the world around him.
Oh and my answer? Easy. I identify as black. My hair, lips and tanned skin tells any stranger I’m black before I do. I walk through this world as a black woman, with some privileges of a white one. Somehow I feel the need to clarify-Is my white side the devil? Of course not. Not at all. That’s not the message. It benefits me in many ways, and I wouldn’t choose another mother for anything. But do I need to filter the telling of my reality to make everyone comfortable? Of course not. Not at all. Comfortable doesn’t equal change. I share my story in hopes of it being a constructive contribution to the conversation, and a screw in a machine that works to benefit all of us humans- no matter our recipe. To work on the grand common goal…
To stop the useless prestigious tone in these #mixed hashtags, duh.