Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Myths of Being Bi-racial

I once had a white co-worker say to me, “April, you’re not black, you’re whiter than me” stretching his arms to reveal his suntanned skin. I was insulted. I’m also insulted when a black man or woman tells me “If you're half black, you're all black.” Both are ignorant mentalities. As if I’m supposed to deny any part of my heritage simply because I look a certain way or because of some ignorant 1800’s race rule. I refuse to give into any of these ways of thinking because I am proud to be who I am. God made me this way, and it is a blessing – even with the ignorance I encounter. While I’ve had many negative experiences because of my insistence to claim both sides of my race, I am happy to be who I am because I was raised by wonderful parents. Unlike many biracial children, my parents are still together - 41 years and counting. Their union, along with their refusal to try to make me into anything I didn’t want to be has made my bi-racial experience a mostly healthy and loving one. While society has dished out some harsh realities regarding racism, my parents made it possible for me to survive it all.

As a child in elementary school, very often, what I heard when I met someone new was "Oh you’re April, that pretty mixed girl.” In high school, it was “Oh, you’re the one with the pretty hair I heard about.” This was generally from those in the black community. White people didn't seem to care about me. I now realize that was more of a class issue than a race one, although I did from time to time have a white person in high school say "oh, you’re that girl who hangs around all the black people." I'd then inform them that I hung around “black people” because I was black myself. In college, I discovered what some today call "hateration." Being so naive and sheltered as a child and teenager, going into my 20's I didn't understand why "hating" existed. But what I did understand was that not everyone was so positive about my bi-racial status. In the black community, women are very competitive with one another. This is unfortunate, because it’s the women that hold the black community together. If anything, we need to unite, not fight. If I had a dollar for all the hateful stares I've received, I'd be a billionaire.

The hateful stares usual occur when I’m on the arm of a black man. However, black men themselves at times have hated on me too. In my clubbing days, I was once at a black nightclub and a man sitting next to me - out of the blue, without saying as much of a hello said “What are you doing here? You light, bright, and damn near white.” The insults use to be really hurtful, and even now it gets frustrating constantly having to defend myself. But I realize it is society that makes some believe that lighter skin is better, in turn making them hate their own darker skin. More frustrating is the belief that my life is somehow easier because I’m light-skinned or “high-yellow,” because nothing could be farther from the truth.

Fortunately, all my experiences have not been all bad. I have met many beautiful black sisters and brothers who are completely accepting of my white skin, and treat me with love, and respect me as a fellow sister. And black men for the most part, love and accept me, but usually are taken aback when they discover my pride in being black. Some appreciate it, some don’t. Either way, I’m going to keep on being who I am because I refuse to give into any kind of hatred from whites or blacks. Because it is my mission in life to educate - not to hate.

12 comments:

Kelly said...

all I can say is preach sista! well said April:)

Sundee Frazier said...

Hi April,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I am also black-white biracial with very light skin, most often assumed to be white, but proud to be both. My parents are also still together after 40 years and I was raised around both sides of my beautiful black-white family and loved by them all. So I feel very BI-racial and don't want to be anything other. It has definitely not always been easy, so I'm always encouraged when I meet others who are choosing the same path. I'm also a part of TTC. I hope we have the opportunity to stay in touch! I live in the other Washington (state) so I doubt our paths will cross any time soon, but I'm also a Christian, a children's writer and I would say feminist, as well -- so who knows! We have more than a few things in common! You can learn more about me at www.sundeefrazier.com.
Be well, and thanks again for sharing your experience.
Sundee

Arana said...

Hi April,

I'm going to add a few (out of many) other myths that I think many non-mixed people tend to have towards biracial/multiracial people (especially women) of African descent:

1) That biracial/multiracial people are 'exotic' - meaning, in a beautiful way..that they're something to be admired and had for themselves...or hated..and that they ALL have an 'exotic' look to them. None of this is true.

2) That biracial/multiracial people (especially the women) of African descent are denying their blackness (which, as you have stated surely many times to others) is far from the truth. We at TTC are very connected to both the black community, to our black families, and to our African/African-American heritages.

3) That all biracial/multiracial women of African/African-American descent are all "lite, brite, and damn near white"...This very well is true for many of us BECAUSE WE ARE racially mixed..and not because we are [trying] to be elite! ..but then there are also many of us who are brown/dark complected too. I think that those on the outside who want to get into TTC's walls just to see how true it is that we're hyping on our skin tones and 'good hair' will find that they won't have anything to write home about...the last thing that they'd ever find at TTC is a sisterhood of 500+ women boasting about their looks and their hair. All BS.

-Although TTC is a sisterhood for biracial/multiracial women of African/African-American descent, I think that we need our circle because our experiences with everyone around us (compared to that of our biracial/multiracial brothers) have been more profound. With the men, it's not that they don't have challenges to face, they do, but I think they don't have as much to face, as do the women.

I think that before the unification of black women and mixed women can take place, perhaps it is necessary to clear up the misunderstandings about us that have stirred up discord between us for the past 400 years.

Scott Price said...

April,

As a friend of yours for twenty-plus years, I have to say that you are right on point on this issue.

You have expressed yourself in a very clear manner and I now have a better appreciation of this important issue.

Thanks again for the post and I look forward to reading many more.

Scott

Teeny said...

Joyeaux Noel, Dear!

MamiZ fo real said...

That is really awesome. I'm the mom of two bi-racial kids. I hope me and my hubby do as good a job with them as your parents did with you!

Missy said...

Hey April,

Long time no hear from. It's great to see you pursuing one of your dreams. I'm sure your blog will provide great insight from your unique experiences and perspective. Good luck on this endeavor.

Anonymous said...

April
Your observations and comments are wonderful. As a black woman, I try to teach my biracial daughter the exact same way of thinking - to embrace both cultures. She has a hard time because she lives w/ her white father and Puerto Rican wife and she is often times assumed to be Puerto Rican.

JayAnna said...

Finally its so nice to hear from someone who feels the same way. My dad is black and comes from a family of 8 boys most of whom have children with white people. Added to that i have friends who are mixed in so many ways. Im light skinned but with dark eyes and the typical curly hair associated with being mixed race. My youngest brother however is even lighter and has straight as straight light brown almost blonde hair and is often called white. I now live in a predominantly black area and only the few who have knowledge of mixed race people call me 'half caste' otherwise im called white. My husband is black and his friends who have seen my brothers and sisters say were 'too light to be mixed race'this kind of annoys me as they are no set rules. When a black person mixes with a white person theres no recipe that means well come out black as our mom/dad. My friend is mixed jamaican/arab but her sister is pure black shall i say and is very dark skinned. Her son however is very white looking with blue eyes, as is my cousins son, as she is white and his dad his black. Now the same black woman has a daughter by another dad and she is dark with curly hair. The only thing that annoys me is that people who say im too white but i should say im black because my one parent is black are the people who know nothing about being mixed. My husband is black african and thats an entirely different life to say black carribean, which my dad is, or african american or black british. His friends are married to african wives and have black children and hardly come into contact with biracial people but they seem to be the ones to tell me how i should look. I have 20 cousins who come in varying shades that tells me different.

JayAnna said...

Finally its so nice to hear from someone who feels the same way. My dad is black and comes from a family of 8 boys most of whom have children with white people. Added to that i have friends who are mixed in so many ways. Im light skinned but with dark eyes and the typical curly hair associated with being mixed race. My youngest brother however is even lighter and has straight as straight light brown almost blonde hair and is often called white. I now live in a predominantly black area and only the few who have knowledge of mixed race people call me 'half caste' otherwise im called white. My husband is black and his friends who have seen my brothers and sisters say were 'too light to be mixed race'this kind of annoys me as they are no set rules. When a black person mixes with a white person theres no recipe that means well come out black as our mom/dad. My friend is mixed jamaican/arab but her sister is pure black shall i say and is very dark skinned. Her son however is very white looking with blue eyes, as is my cousins son, as she is white and his dad his black. Now the same black woman has a daughter by another dad and she is dark with curly hair. The only thing that annoys me is that people who say im too white but i should say im black because my one parent is black are the people who know nothing about being mixed. My husband is black african and thats an entirely different life to say black carribean, which my dad is, or african american or black british. His friends are married to african wives and have black children and hardly come into contact with biracial people but they seem to be the ones to tell me how i should look. I have 20 cousins who come in varying shades that tells me different.

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