Sometimes filling out applications and questionnaires for a biracial person can be as difficult. When I was born in Ohio in 1989, there was limited racial options on the birth certificate. They simply defined your race as that of your mother’s, whether that was entirely true or not. In my case, that meant my birth certificate was labeled black. This has caused many irritating and awkward moments in my life, especially since i am fairly light skinned. When I go fill out paperwork that requires disclosure of my race, people are often bewildered or think I am crazy. As a child and a teenager my mother told me i should go by my birth certificate. When I took the SAT s in high school I actually had the proctor look over my test page and say “oh honey, you filled out the wrong bubble” and she began to erase the “black” bubble and fill in the “Caucasian” bubble as i awkwardly tried to explain the situation. I have these moments burned in my brain forever as they happen all the time to me. Why should this be an issue. I am thankful that some paperwork now allows you to check a box named “two or more races” or fill in all bubbles that apply to you. These things should not even be an issue in 2014! I feel the same frustration that many of my transgendered friends feel when they are questioned about their gender because we live in a society that expects people to fit in a “box” where everything should match up perfectly. I am judged by people’s expectations of what my race should be according to their expectations. People of all races come in all the colors of the rainbow and should never be treated as such.
One of the firsts questions I am asked when people find out I’m biracial, “is your mom black or is your father?” I have several issues with this question. First, of all who cares? Second of all, why does it matter? In this society we always want to put labels on people. To answer the question, My mother is black, and my father is white.
Something people don’t understand about this particular mix of races is that the races of the parents do seem to make a difference. I don’t mean to generalize for all biracial people but, if your mother is black those children seem to display more white characteristics. softer hair, lighter skin tone and more facial characteristics of Caucasians. this also affects the way we are treated in society. even within the black community people with lighter skin and better hair are treated as more special, more attractive. THIS IS WRONG! In turn biracial offspring with white mothers tend to be darker skin toned, with coarser hair. Again this doesnt mean its this way for everyone i just mean generally in my life and having many biracial people in my life this seems to be the case. Because of their characteristics they seem to be more easily able to integrate into african american culture. kids like me get accused of “being whitewashed”, or thinking that we are better than other black folks.
All of these stereotypes are wrong. That’s why i write this blog, exposing my life and my viewpoint. I have hopes that I can break down walls of prejudice, judgement and plain ol ignorance. The next time you make a snap judgement on people based on the color of their skin. We all have preconceived notions of skin color, race, ethnicity, gender and age. Remember how it felt when someone JUDGES YOU. I urge us all to become humans first and prejudice never!
Here is a picture of me oh say 2006. I was 17 years old, akward and generally lost and trying to find myself. This particular picture holds significance for me because this is me, but NOT me. I was throwing up a symbol to impress my cousin. I had just finished being teased for being “whitewashed.” So in an attempt to prove to my cousin how “black” I really was and how “hip” I was I was copying his hand symbol. This has been a recurring theme in my life.
A little background, while I am biracial, black and white I was raised by a predominately african american family. My father was adopted at a young age and was estranged from his family most of my life so i have never gotten to experience his roots. I was raised by my mother’s family, an astonishing mix of her 8 siblings, their 24 children and my lovely grandparents. Everything I experienced was from an african american standpoint. So imagine my family’s surprise, that as i grew i tended to show an interest in everything that was labled as “white”. I had caucasian freinds almost exculsively, dated white people, listened to linkin park and staind versus Jay Z and outkast, and wanted to dye my hair a million colors and wear almost all black.
My family was insistent that I was ashamed of being black, that i didnt understand that I was simply ALL WRONG. My sister, is alomst everything I am not. We are completely polar opposites, therefore we were labled as “the black one” and “the white one” from a very early age. I was told that I was just like my father and they set about earnestly to change me. My mother broke all of my linkin park records and forbid me to wear black because “only white people dress goth”. I was bombarded with black history lessons from various family members and encouraged to date african american people only. I, as a teenager of course began to rebel.
Even though I was hurt by all of these things, my coping mechanism was to laugh it off, I even began to jokingly refer to myself as the “white sheep of the family”
I never understood why these things were such a big deal, I was merely pursuing what felt right to me. I didn’t shun the possibility of dating black people, I just wasnt attracted to them, I merely preffred rock and country music, I just wanted pink hair.
As i grew up and began having other biracial friends I began to see that we all had the same problem. We didn’t fit in anywhere! We were labled as a way to make others feel better about our differentness. If we could be labled as one race then others would feel more comfortable about where we stood.
This is however an impossible task. Biracial means TWO races. That means that we are not bound to one definition. We can’t be “white” or “black” or any other one race. We are a dash of both. As my family eventually found out, I DID love black history( I know many facts), I DID like rock AND hip hop. I did eventually date a few black people and of many other races too. I love Christmas AND Kwanzaa. It simply took me awhile to find my way.
Labels sometimes hurt people. They feel compelled to try to fit themselves in a little box and in turn, lose themselves. Don’t pressure to be what you want them to be, instead love and accept them for who they are. Peel back the layers and discover who you are along the way too.
I want to clear up an impression you may have made by now, I love my family uncondittionally and wouldn’t trade them for anything in this world. Their actions were simply out of confusion. That’s the main reason I am writing about my experiences, to educate themselves. And i have faced just as much pressure from the other people in my life to change into what they feel comfortable with too.
I still catch myself changing into someone else when I am around my white friends too. My sister also shared these feelings with me too recently. We find ourseleves changing our music, speech, mannerisms, music, clothing and etc in order not to appear “too black” or vice versa as not to offend anyone.
Today, I know who I am. I am an amazing mother, sister, daughter, friend, partner. I listen to linkin park and 2 Chainz in my car. I still dress goth every now and then AND i can pull off other looks too. I accept who I am and everyone else does too. I hope my blog helps some other biracial person feel free to be who they are too!
As I sit here I’m thinking what bi-racial means to me. I am 24 years old. I have a African-American Mother and A Caucasian Father. I grew up simply accepting I was different. Not in a bad way, more like unique. I grew up mostly in Kentucky which was slower to accept my race than other states. Here in the south, racism is not dead, it is more hidden and comes out in passive regressive ways. People are slow to change their thinking. Example: I am 4 years old, in the grocery store, clutching my mother’s hand and hiding behind her. The lady handing out samples approaches me, hands me one and kindly asks me if I’m having a good day with my nanny. My mother is horribly offended. This woman did not mean any harm or disrespect or unkindness. She simply assumed that a woman who was black could not possibly have a mixed race child. Second example: I am riding down the road with my grandfather, whom is African-American. My little sister is beside me in the backseat. My grandfather is pulled over. The implication is that he was black, my sister and I did not appear so, therefore this policeman was concerned that we were being kidnapped.
I don’t mean to imply that everyone is like this, but where i live its more prevalent than other areas. You would think that we as Americans have come a long way when it comes to biracial people. But the most important weapon we have to combat this is KNOWLEDGE. Here is a list of a few facts i would like to say about biracial people:
1.) We are our own SEPARATE RACE. a perfectly blended of two different races.
2.) We do not have to “pick a race” we are BOTH. ( I cannot stress this enough)
3.) It’s hard enough to fit in both sides without people pointing out how much we are like one race or another. (i.e. “you’re soooo white, black, asian, etc)
4.) We are a product of our parent’s love, not a science fiction experiment or a novelty.
5.) We are people too with thoughts and feelings, we don’t need you constantly pointing out our features.
I personally love being biracial, I get double the culture and many new experiences because of my race. I am able to advocate for both my culture and their rights because I am an EQUAL part of both. I encourage if you have questions to ask away. I am an open book. However if you have a racial slur, or an ignorant comment to make, no thanks.
I’m going to close this first post with a quote:
“I am not a little bit of many things; but I am the sufficient representation of many things. I am not an incompletion of all these races; but I am a masterpiece of the prolific. I am an entirety, I am not a lack of anything; rather I am a whole of many things. He did not see it needful to make me generic. He thinks I am better than that.”
― C. JoyBell