When you're Mixed but Don't Look It

  My father is the best person I know. He’s smart, practical, loving, protective, and everything else that a girl could ask for in a father. He’s funny, charming, quiet. He also happens to be an African American with Cherokee and Choctaw Indian blood from Virginia. He married my mother 21 years ago, a Caucasian woman from Alabama. My brother was born the February before they were married, and I was born two years after in April. To say the least, we have some qualities about our family that don’t match up to the stereotype of others.

    My brother gets told that he looks like so many things; mixed, Mexican, Latino, Native American. He has a tan to die for, distinct Indian features, and he has dark brown hair -naturally- and he is very tall. I, however, get told that I am only white. When I introduce myself to people, I usually get asked to tell one interesting detail about myself or my friends tell me to tell this new person what all I am. I always respond the same way; “Well, I’m white, black, Cherokee and Choctaw.” More times than not, I get this look. A look that says “What?” A look that says “You’re joking.” I can count on two hands how many people tell me that they can see it or acknowledge it before the questioning.

    I have never met another person like me. Yes, I have met other mixed people, of course, but they don’t look like me. They are always “light-skinned,” obviously having African American descent. When people see them, they ask them what all they’re mixed with. When they see me and hear what I say, I always get “Really?” “How?” “But you’re white?” “Nah, your skin is waaay too pale.” “What do you mean MIXED?” “You’re everything white like the rest of them, right?” “Are you sure you weren’t adopted by your parents, or that your dad isn't your step-father?” It takes me having to find a picture of me and my dad together to show them our resemblance.

    With each question, my heart gets a little heavy, knowing that I don’t look like what I am. With each look, my soul feels the burden of betrayal as my skin color doesn’t reflect my father, who I put above all else in this world. With each smirk and scoff, my mind wanders to a string of thoughts that belittle my self worth, for I feel like there is a truth trapped inside a lie that most can’t look past. I feel like even more of a minority than I already am being a mixed woman.

    I've never had this conversation with my father, how I feel like I've let him down for not looking more like him, but I have heard him say over the years that he is glad I look so white. He is glad I look more like my mother because he didn't want me growing up with the same treatment he got growing up due to the color of his skin. He didn't want me to have to walk down the street and get yelled obscenities in our small little southern part of town. After this past year with the police brutalities to those of color, I'm ashamed to say that I was glad I didn't look mixed. To me, that was the biggest slap in the face I could have ever given myself.

    However, there is one thing about my pigmentation that never fails. I always get to tell my story. No matter how much crap I get for not looking mixed, no matter how much shame I may feel for not resembling my father more, no matter how many of those specific looks I get, I can always tell my truth. I can always say what makes me me. I can always be able to look a stranger in the eye and know that I am who I am, and no one can take that away from me because at the end of the day, it’s not about what you look like. It’s about what you know is inside you, and that is something pretty dang special.