I Remember Growing Up Mixed in America
I remember my mother telling me that when I was born the nurses thought my father couldn’t be my father.
I remember that this made me more protective of my father. I remember my mother telling me that once in a mall, a young girl had the audacity to ask if I was really my mother’s because I was too pale. I remember being angry that this young girl didn’t think that I could be of mixed heritage.
I remember that throughout my young childhood strangers would touch my hair without permission. I remember how this scarred me and how I was afraid to wear my hair out. I remember being five and cutting my hair because it was “too big.” I remember doing this because people always commented on how different it was, and I hated it.
I remember being called brownie when I was four. I remember not knowing whether this was negative or factual. I remember that I tried to dry all of the brown out of my skin. I remember that those actions made my mother cry.
I remember people telling me throughout my life that I was beautiful, some adding, for a Black girl. I remember not knowing whether that was because I might have been lighter than most of the Black girls they knew or had seen, or because I was the most unique Black girl they had seen.
I remember being seven, my sister three, at the mall with my father when an elderly woman asked if we were adopted.
I remember being sad because I loved my father. I remember the hurt on my father’s face every time someone undermined the possibility of his paternity.
I remember adopting mothers asking me how it felt to grow up around people who didn’t look like me. I remember thinking that maybe I was supposed to feel like I was missing out on something in my life because none of my close friends looked like me.
I remember that I didn’t start wearing my hair down until I was thirteen. I remember that I waited to prevent unnecessary attention.
I remember that the first time I wore my hair straight people told me I looked like Beyonce.
I remember not being pleased because I was my own person, not Beyonce.
I remember being fourteen and being one of five Black kids at my high school. I remember being asked multiple times in the first two years if one of the boys and I were siblings. I remember being angry because he and I thought that it was happening because we both were lighter than the other two Black boys.
I remember being seventeen when a boy from school posted on Facebook that we should have Veteran’s Day off because we had Nigger Day off. I remember being upset that he had no idea that he was hurting and insulting people who had died, were dying, and would die in the future for the rights of Black people.
I remember not knowing what race/ethnicity to put down on my school applications.
I remember not understanding why I couldn’t have my own category. I remember being eighteen and a young boy telling me that Black people and White people should not be allowed to get married. I remember the same young boy also telling me that their children would look odd. I remember telling him that I was the result of a White person and a Black person having a baby and him not believing me, nor thinking it was possible. I remember him finally believing me and being very apologetic.
I remember moving down South and people looking at me oddly when I would automatically say I was Black.
I remember thinking that this was because my hair wasn’t as kinky or as dark as that of other Black people. I remember one guy in college telling me that I wasn’t really Black. I remember telling him that my father was White and my mother was Black and him replying that I had proven his point. I remember not knowing what he meant by that.
I remember throughout my life that I have never really been White or Black. I remember people choosing what part of me to see and then choosing what they wanted to emphasize. I remember that apart from my closest friends, my race was a predominant part of how people viewed me.