There was a time when I didn’t know I had to identify black or white. I was young and didn’t understand what it meant to be mixed, to be part of two worlds which somehow seem to have a never-ending conflict based solely on shades of skin.
Then, there was a time when I found myself constantly feeling I had to choose between black or white, “which would you rather be?” a young classmate asked.
The thing was, I didn’t see myself as either race specifically. I was raised by the white side of my family and didn’t have any contact with my black father. I have an older half brother who I did see often, he is black. So I knew I was black as well.
Throughout my teen years I realized that it was other people who placed me in one race or another based on whatever I did… or didn’t do.
Recently I was asked which race I identify with more and it made me think again. So maybe today I can try to explain better.
I don’t live a specific lifestyle that I feel is more black or more white. It usually takes a specific moment or atmosphere when I feel I am more one race over another and that’s just a moment, not who I am.
It’s usually someone else who views me as one race over another. Growing up, friends from both races would say things like “oh you can’t talk Ebonics you’re so white.” Or “you’re a good dancer, must be cause you’re black.”
A black girl would make a hair weave comment (before extensions were so popular) and tell me “you wouldn’t understand the struggle because you’re not really black.” hmm, okay.
Or if the police stop me and a white friend, the white friend says, “they only stopped us because you’re black.” What the…. Or even if I am in a small town populated mostly by white people, I’m getting stared at. I even have had times that I got a little nervous for my safety and felt I don’t belong there. Those people made it so I definitely don’t feel white.
Yes, even food choices. If I put collard greens on my plate, black people always seem to find a way to say something like “ok girl, I didn’t know you eat like that” then if I eat quinoa or avocado toast, that same black person would most often say “why are you eating that, you should eat some collards.” I am too black for avocado toast and too white for soul food. Seems strange that food makes you one way or another but it happened.
I was at lunch with a friend talking about dating profiles. I told her that I didn’t message a guy on the site because he had check-boxed for his preferred partners ethnicity “white”. She then said, “but you’re half white, do you not see yourself as white too?” And I realized again. I don’t see myself as white and I don’t see myself as black. If someone put only black as a preference for a partner, I wouldn’t messaged them either. Maybe that’s just based on how people have seen me over the years, having to choose or maybe I want to date someone who has no preference at all. We will talk about dating in another post.
Now let’s talk about When I don’t feel black:
I watched Amanda Seales stand up comedy on Netflix. Her audience is majority black women and her jokes and comments for this specific show were black focused as well. I watch a lot of black, white, whatever comedians, but with this show, I found there were so many moments when I felt, ‘man I am not black enough and if I were in that room would I feel out of place?’ I found her funny but somehow I felt it wasn’t at all directed towards me, like someone in that audience would turn to me and say “girl you wouldn’t understand you’re not really black” even though I could relate to it.
I googled her because she looked mixed and I wanted to know if she was mixed in some way and if so…how did she get such amazing blackness and why don’t I have that? Or Why don’t I come off as black to black people how she clearly does.
Now about when I did not feel white:
Oddly, In that same week at a bar with friends. A pop song came on and every white girl screamed and started the same dance. Jumping and shaking shoulders, screaming lyrics into each others faces and tossing their hair and I thought…”there is a lot of whiteness happening. I am not white enough to be here” I didn’t even know the song and for a split moment I closed up and searched the bar for a person of color until I made eye contact with one. Like it was reassuring me.
Here I was in the same week not feeling black and not feeling white. Or maybe feeling more black and feeling more white. Again it comes in moments, situations that I am in or how others view me. It comes in the music I listen to or movies I watch. The people I am attracted to and the words people have said to me over the years.
I am not a black woman.
I am not a white woman.
This doesn’t mean I am denying any side of me, it means I embrace them both. I don’t identify with one more than another and I shouldn’t have to. I get the judgement from both worlds, I have understanding of both worlds and have my own interracial struggles.
I identify as a mixed woman.