I realize that I speak in terms of black and white in this piece. This is because it’s what I have experienced. I know that there are many more variables that factor in to the issue of race in the U.S.
BEING BIRACIAL: My family never kept it a secret -I am a biracial female, adopted by and raised by white parents.
My birth mother is white and my birth father is black. Jennifer L. Bratter is quoted in the New York Times saying “Biological race trumps cultural race.” I find this to be valid. People are much more interested in my biological race than my cultural one. I am culturally a white American girl, but I am a little off-white in color and features and that’s what intrigues people. People ask “what are you?” I have gotten this question multiple times a week since I was a child. Before I could speak my parents were the ones being asked “what is she?” (I was the most ethnic person in the tiny all-white town that I grew up in, so my babysitter decided to tell people I was tan because I was Hawaiian. Being Hawaiian was more acceptable than being part black I guess. I have a feeling she had never seen a real Hawaiian person.)
Honestly I don’t even know what to say to “what are you?” I have been contemplating getting a DNA test so I can answer this question correctly. Usually I just say “black and white.” And the response is “whaaaaaaat???? No way!” That response in and of itself shows me how much biological race matters to people. People can’t help but want to figure out what my racial composition is when they meet me, and when they find out I am part black it is a big to do. I would bet diamonds that if I said I was part Hispanic or Mediterranean I would get a much less dramatic response. Next, people want to know how black I am. “How black?” means “what percentage?” I used to say I was 50% black because half of my biological family is identified by society as black. But, looking at them, they probably aren’t 100% black, so now I say 25%. I actually have absolutely no idea what percentage black I am, but I need an answer so I made that one up.
People either focus on the fact that I am part black and love it and identify with it, or minimize it by saying “well, you’re mostly white.” White people say “well, you’re mostly white” as though they are saying, “don’t worry, it’s okay, you’re mostly white” and black people say “well, you’re mostly white” as though they are saying “well…you aren’t really black.” Either way, people choose one of my biological races to identify me by and deem the other negligible.
Think about why that is…people can live with black or with white but they are uncomfortable in the grey. It’s like people don’t think my 2 parts can get along. Except I don’t have 2 parts! My black and white are mixed together and I am the resulting whole person. I guess it’s hard for some minds to reconcile the 2 races that have been most opposed to one another throughout U.S. history. I am made of dominance and oppression. I am made of master and slave.
BLACK GIRL INCOGNITO: One of the absurd things about being part black but looking white is that people think it’s okay to say stupid racist things in front of me. You know the kinds of things that they look over their shoulder before saying to make sure there are no black people around to hear? They say these things in front of me and I can call them out on it, which I would do even if I weren’t part black. But believe me, people feel a lot worse about saying something ignorant when they realize that they just talked S#!+ about half of my family, than they do when they just see me as a little white-girl sociology major on a mission to teach tolerance to the masses.
RACE RELATIONS: I have an endless conversation about race relations and stereotypes in the United States. I will leave the serious writing to the scholars.
I just have a few points
#1 If you think that racism no longer exists, you are wrong.
#2 Racism is woven into the fabric of U.S. social systems. If you can’t see that, it’s because it’s right under your nose, not right in front of your face.
#3. My birth dad is a 6’5” black man and is not scary, as you would probably think when walking by him on the street at night. God forbid he be wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
#4 Google ‘white flight’
#5 Does the phrase “he talks black” make sense to you? It shouldn’t.
#7 I heard a story on the news yesterday about three guys who robbed a convenient store at gun point and used all of the money to buy watermelon, grape soda and menthols. The robbers were what biological and cultural race?
ADOPTION: I will talk about trans-racial adoptions at a later time. Adoptive parents, keep the above in mind.
LOVE always and forever,