In a recent BuzzFeed video, people who self-identify as mixed race explain what it’s like having to fit into multiple identities. One person discussed the pressures of fitting into the stereotypes surrounding both of their ethnicities and failing to do so and feeling rejected by both sides. The intricacies of racial identity are something that can never be truly explained.
We, as human beings, connect to our backgrounds in ways that are commonly predisposed by our personal feelings, along with our families, friends, and cultural heritage. Every individual has the right to define themselves and their connection with their heritage in their own unique way, but people who are mixed race are often faced with specific struggles when it comes to identity.
As someone who is mixed race, I can attest to this. The most common question I have gotten throughout my life is “So, what are you?” as though I were some crazy artifact found in the museum of racial jumble. I always appreciate curiosity but as time went by, I struggled to actually know where I fit. In elementary school, I was constantly asked if I was adopted after my white mom would pick me up from school and this was followed by the nickname “burnt marshmallow”. In high school, my friends deemed me the black token friend while making sure I knew that I was too white to be black.
I knew I wasn’t “normal” and I began to wish that I could just be white like all of my friends. I started straightening my hair, hiding my curls and actually faced a lot of self-confidence issues. I hated how my hair would get frizzy, I didn’t know what make-up would work for my skin, and I wasn’t comfortable with my body when people began commenting on my “black butt”.
I felt like I didn’t belong with whatever type of group I decided to hang out with and I realized that I will always be “basically white” while another half of my heritage was being ignored. The funny thing is that other people seem to have a problem with my racial identification more than I do.
As Black History Month was last month, I got a lot of questions on whether black history actually impacted me. I believe that as someone who shares race and heritage with any other black person, black history does impact me. As the #BlackLivesMatter movement becomes more prominent in our society, people will ask me if it actually matters to me or not. Again, as someone who shares race with any other black person I do care about this movement.
I have learned to understand that I can be white, and I can be black, and I can exist as a human being. My identity hasn’t been lost. I am able to feel impacted when Kendrick stood on stage and spoke directly to the black experience in America or when Beyonce released Formation. It is a challenge to not let those imaginary lines that separate interests and behaviours as “black” and “white” define you but for all of those people struggling with their racial identity, don’t let those imaginary lines alter the way you feel about yourself.
I am the perfect mix between my two parents. My mother has flowing straight light hair with a beautiful smile and sparkling blue eyes and my dad has beautiful dark brown skin tone with a cute button nose, and I’m thankful for all of their traits. Next time someone asks you ‘what are you” embrace the opportunity to answer this with pride and introduce people to a new cultural standard.