Disclaimer: Lets be clear #blacklivesmatter. This is not an argument on that or trying in anyway to take away from how prevalent this movement is, I am simply sharing my experience of being born in the middle of two races . I hope it will help those who feel stuck between two lives.
“From the day I was born it was clear that the world had no place for mixed children.”
From the day I was born it was clear that the world had no place for mixed children. My mother, a Latina from Puerto Rico, was born with beautiful dark skin. At the hospital when she asked to see her baby the nurse quickly brought her back a newborn child. This child was the only child born with black skin at the hospital that day and she was beautiful…the problem was that this child was not me. Had the nurse checked the ID tag on the babies foot like she was supposed to, she would not have made this mistake. But she had assumed instead black goes with black and I didn’t fit into that picture. My mother couldn’t even escape racism on the day of my birth.
“The problem is that she was not me.”
I was born the color of my father, not light skinned, but white and all that comes with it. Enough white privilege to get the jobs, but ‘tainted’ enough to not get full respect. My parents had always joked that their mixed children would look like the Cosby kids, but that was never the case. People constantly assumed my mother was my nanny….out loud…to her face, causing her to have to correct their mistake. She held her head high because she was, and still is a very prideful woman. Besides, she thought, at least her little girl would never experience racism (discrimination yes, but not racism) and that made her happy.
They did get a little closer to their “Cosby kid” with my brother. He was born with skin I envied even before I knew why. He had three traits that I would alway wish for, but I’d never posses. He was male (which I still believe is as lucky as winning the lottery), he had tan skin, and was a little short of genius.
“He was born with skin I envied even before I knew why.”
My brother was born a preemie and though he would someday pass me, for most of my life we were the same height. Since we were constantly being told that we looked like twins, it was easy to spot someone with deep rooted racism, for they claimed that we looked nothing alike. For some reason they just could not see past the color. Sometimes people would say, I look like my dad and he looks like my mom. They proved again this ingrained belief that black goes with black and white goes with white. My parents would laugh at this because he looks like neither of them and I am the perfect mix of both. But as a child I didn’t laugh. This was hard to hear and all those seemingly innocent comments struck a cord within me.
“Because black goes with black and white goes with white”
Everyone is a little bit racist so I am not claiming that I was not, but I just couldn’t understand how people could think the way that they did. My dolls, my friends, the people I idolized, even my crushes later in life, all came in every shade and race under the sun. To this day I still cringe when I hear someone say, I only like (insert race) boys or girls. I struggled later in life when I would try and get my friends to hang out and they would say that they had “nothing in common”. My black friends would say they had nothing in common with my white friends and vise versa. This frustrated me with the world beyond belief. There was a golden period from middle to high school when everyone merged into one friend group. After high school graduation this fell through again. There were a couple of friends still able to overlap, but for the most part, without me, they would not interact. I foolishly have never stopped trying.
“Nothing in common”
Going away to college turned out to be the hardest because of racial divides. My classmates would constantly comment on how many Asians there were at my school even though the White population was more than double. I ended up being split again between multiple friend groups.
This is the racial breakdown of my school:
0.2% American Indian/Alaskan Native
2.7% Multi-race (not Hispanic/Latino)
0.1% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander
White people at this school saw me as Latina and for some of them, this was their first experience being friends with someone they didn’t consider white. They claimed the one black person they knew as their black friend and used the black emojis because they were “funny” —so oblivious of their privilege it hurt.
Black people at this school had experienced so much racism from growing up with these people, that after freshman year they were too hurt to try even and befriend fellow white students. All 8% of them where always seen together and thanks to their small population, I recognized them all. My friend was on the board for the African Student Association. Every event was filled with culture that I’d never be able to share with my white friends judgement free.
“I ended up being split again”
Now after graduating college, I’m navigating the adult world and seeing so-called grown ups acting worse than kids. As a teacher I take every teachable moment in a conversation with a parent or child to break down racial barriers, but it is so hard when their society keeps undoing all the progress I make with them. Please help by educating yourselves and your children so that we can keep taking steps forward instead of steps back. For those of you mixed babies out there I hope you found that you were able to connect to some of my experiences, and I would love to hear some of yours.