My dad’s mom is white. My dad’s dad is black. My mom’s mom is Bermudian by ethnicity. My mom’s dad is black. Of course, their mixture includes little bits of other races and ethnicities. Why does this matter?
People see me with a thick head of curly hair, red tint to my skin indicative of my Native American heritage. Next thing I know, they hit me with the, “What are you mixed with?”
Why does my curly hair and skin tone automatically make me a shoe-in for your ideal mixed girl? Sure, some people with mixed heritage have these features. But I know plenty of people with zero to no mixture in their bloodlines (as they believe it) with the same features as me.
Back in the 1890s, the U.S. Census would classify blacks by how black they were. Quadroon and Octoroon were categories that existed to quantify blackness. Because blackness was associated with inferiority, if there was “1 drop” of black in anyone’s blood, that person was considered a Negro even if he/she looked white. Racially mixed people were assigned “the status of the subordinate group.” Race should not matter, but in the history of our country it has mattered and it still continues to be an issue.
If I was alive in that era, and I said I was white, people would have laughed at me. But somehow white people, who had an ounce of black in them, who looked white, were black, and not white. I don’t look white. I look black and I am black, I just happen to have some diluted melanin in my blood as well.
I have decided to stop classifying my racial identity because it is indicative of the exact social construct I am trying to dismantle. Why do I say I’m ¼ white and not ¾ black? Because whiteness is associated with purity and superiority, I have internalized the exact racism that our country was founded on, and equate my presumably beautiful mixed fixtures, to the white part of me rather than the black part. Seriously, just Google, “how the white race was viewed as superior” and you will see that people still argue white superiority.
I love the white, the black, and the other parts that comprise my racial identity. However, I cannot continue to classify my mixed features as coming from the white part of me.
People still ask me “What are you mixed with?” and now I respond with “I’m Bermudian.” Because that is what I am. I am proud of my culture and where I am from. I don’t deny my whiteness and I don’t look at being white as a negative trait. I understand the social construct of race and how it was created to justify the racial hierarchy white people created, and I seek to educate people on this fact. Race is a social construct and white people have benefited from its creation. Once we acknowledge this, we can work together to fix the issues it has caused and strive for true equality.
My sociology class has changed my life. It has challenged preconceived notions that I have always believed and pushed me to seek more knowledge on social issues including, but not limited to race, gender inequality, and housing discrimination. I strongly encourage anybody reading this to expand his or her or their mindset and read, read, read!