I’ve tried to have this discussion before, and I received some crazy responses. “Why are you talking about race you aren’t even black?” Yes, I am. I’m also Hispanic. I’m also biracial or mixed race or any variant of those. And I hate that race is now such a big deal when I think its the least important factor of my life. But with the BLM and the everything that’s happening now in America its become a topic at every family dinner.
My family recently asks me which race I feel I represent more, my black side, or my Hispanic side? Honestly, I can’t say I represent either. I had a very different perspective of race my whole life. Also, picking one means I’m rejecting one of my parents. Do I reject the black mother, who raised me or the Hispanic father who’s name I share?
When I was born, I was the perfect mix of both my parents. I have my mother’s beautiful curly brown hair and eyes. Sadly the only thing I have in common with my father outside our shared last name is our skin tone and maybe our lack of commitment. My family is a real melting pot. My parents taught me that being mixed was loving someone for who they are, not what they look like. The world taught me that being mixed was being different, and at times it was a cruel lesson to learn. I began to feel that I only knew one truth in my life; I wasn’t what I thought I was and whatever I actually was, it wasn’t enough. I learned to hate myself because the world did. And to this day, I feel inadequate.
I will never be one race or the other, but I’ll also never be both. I grew up without an identity and without a culture to connect to. Not that my parents didn’t try to impose some culture on me. They did, but I felt a disconnect. I felt like an imposter. I didn’t know what I was allowed to experience. Making tamales while listening to Celia Cruz and Juan Gabriel with my grandmother and cousins as they spoke Spanish and danced around the kitchen. Spending time with my mom’s side of the family while they had get-togethers listening to Luther Vandross and Sly and the Family Stone. To me, these were like looking behind the curtain and seeing something I wasn’t supposed to. I knew it was okay when I was with my family, but outside my house, it was awkward to navigate the world. How could I listen to Dr. Dre or sing along to Prince Royce without looking like a poser?
I was told I wasn’t dark enough to be black, and I wasn’t Mexican enough because I lacked speaking Spanish. And when I insisted that I wasn’t white, no one listened. Because I am racially ambiguous, most people don’t know what language to use when speaking to me. Though my mom insisted I wasn’t white, I found a strong argument against that every time I looked in the mirror. A mirror I grew to hate looking at because all it ever showed was I was different. I was considered to be one among ten other white kids in school, even though all my records said I was black. It felt like every time I tried to make friends, the song “One of These Things is Not Like the Others” would play. I spent so many years of my life trying to assimilate to those around me. It didn’t matter because I always liked the wrong thing, “white things.” How else do you categorize rollerskating, playing guitar, and reading? It wasn’t until high school when I stopped caring about what others thought. By this point, kids stopped caring about my race and cared more about the rumors that I was a slut-but that’s a different post.
Aside from my lack of Spanish and the fair skin I couldn’t change, I tried to assimilate myself by changing my hair. To me, my hair was a dead giveaway that I was mixed. Unlike other girls, my hair wasn’t coils or naturally straight, but bouncy ringlets. Except for when I brushed it, then it created a little afro. Watch the 1982 version of Annie, and you can get the idea of what my hair looked like. I fought my mom to let me get perms and to dye my hair. I thought if my hair was straight and lighter, maybe I could find a crowd to accept me. It wasn’t until I learned that my “nigga hair”- a term I learned when I was applying for jobs at sixteen- also wasn’t accepted. I stopped dying my hair to fit in and changed it to stand out. By the time I graduated high school, I had done every color of the rainbow except yellow. I never cut it, dyed it, and styled it because of heartache and teenage rebellion. Maybe a little a rebellion, but I wasn’t rebelling from my parents. Dying my hair was a giant middle finger to the world that would not accept me.
One thing that has remained constant in my life is I always tried and failed to fit into others’ expectations. I hate when people say well you’re light, so you don’t have to claim to be black. Or the one-drop rule- if you have a drop of black in you, you’re black. People see what they want to see in me. Yet they don’t see me as me. I hear things like ‘What are you mixed with?’ ‘You aren’t white, but you aren’t black. What are you?’ White guys call me ‘exotic’ because I don’t fit into a little box on a racial checklist. ‘You’re only partially black, so your opinion doesn’t matter.’ “Check your mixed privilege.”
People feel that because I’m light, I’ve never heard a racial slur. I have, and I’ve had my own struggles with matching a suspect’s description and many other things. I don’t speak about them because I know it’s nothing compared to my family’s struggle. My older brother was picking me up from work, and three mall security cars pulled up next to his car because he was a black male driving up to a white girl late at night. My sister’s constant polite facade she has to wear to work because if she’s anything but happy and smiling, she is viewed as an “angry black woman.” My younger brother was brutally beaten and almost drowned because he looked too Mexican and lived in a predominantly black neighborhood. My parents, who lived through the LA riots, hated that they had to witness them again. Hated that their children felt the need to attend a protest.
But it doesn’t stop me from expressing who I am as a multiracial person and that technically I am a person of color and keep supporting the BLM Movement. I am me. I am proud to be black. I’m just as proud of everything else I am mixed with. And that is the crucial thing for people to accept mixed people.
With all this said, the hate, fear, and confusion against people like me needs to stop. We matter. How we identify matters and should be respected. Even if mixed/multiracial people are considered a race of our own, and that’s fine because times change. Can we stop making people feel like they aren’t enough due to their race? Can we stop putting such a stigma on the color of our skin? It’s 2020 can we just make a bunch of mixed babies and forget about racism and colorism? I don’t understand how people have the energy to hate anyone else, but that may be because I’m too busy hating myself.