To be completely honest, I’ve been wanting to write this article all semester long, but every time I went to put my pitch in the Her Campus spreadsheet, I hesitated. I didn’t feel like I could do justice for the millions of multiracial people in America with one measly article. I grew up feeling separated from both the white and Black communities, despite having parents from both races, and I was worried that by writing this article, I would be falsely representing an entire group of multiracial people.
And that felt wrong.
After a whole semester of contemplating this, I remembered that this is my experience and it is in no way reflective of anyone else’s circumstances. So, as a disclaimer, this is my life and how I’ve felt as a multiracial woman in America. No matter how I grew up or what I went through, I could never have the exact same life as anyone else, and therefore, my experience is still worth hearing.
When I was younger, I attended a largely white school from 2nd to 8th grade. All of the girls looked nearly identical (pretty, white, straight hair). I so desperately wanted to be like them, especially since the only other representation of mixed women in my life were my sisters. I brushed my curly hair every day to try and get it as straight as I could (which, as curly-haired girls know, makes it incredibly frizzy), watched that fail, and then put my hair in a braid or two. Before school dances, the other girls would ask me if I wanted them to help me straighten my hair. I obliged a couple of times because at least I looked like everyone else.
In 6th grade I finally found my friend group, which happened to be almost all of the non-white girls in the entire middle school. I finally found people that I identified with and had a pretty okay middle school experience. For once, I wasn’t the odd one out.
My friend group in high school was all white and I was sometimes identified to others as the “Black friend,” something which shamed me because it felt wrong to identify as Black because I was only half, the same way it shamed me to identify as white. When I was cast in the musical Hairspray freshman year, it became a running joke that I was only cast because I was one of the few non-white people to audition. And, when I decided to join the International Baccalaureate program during my junior year of high school, I discovered that I was one of nine mixed kids of the two hundred students (juniors and seniors) in the entire program. I distinctly remember getting into an argument during an English Socratic seminar about a book written by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Because of the demographics of my school and program, I was one of the only two Black students in the entire English class and I felt forced to argue a perspective that I often struggled to connect with. As much as my school valued talking about representation, it was hard to represent an entire race without feeling like it was right for me to identify as part of that race myself.
When I registered for my elementary/middle school, they didn’t have a mixed option when choosing which race I identified as. My mom was forced to choose which racial identity I would portray until I left. And, when I registered for high school, the same problem persisted and I was forced to choose again.
Growing up, I never felt like I could properly identify with either the white or Black communities and I was embarrassed when members of either group felt like it was their responsibility to remind me that I didn’t belong. I’ve been asked if I was Hispanic or Middle Eastern, told that I’m not Black enough or not white enough, and overall reminded that I didn’t belong.
Because race is constantly a part of the conversation in America, it’s so hard not to think about my racial identity. I’ve been told to play the Black card but to remember my white privilege, while also being reminded that I’m not white.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that being mixed in America is difficult, no matter what kind of horrible experiences you’ve been through. I have to constantly remind myself that my race doesn’t define who I am, and that who I am as a person matters so much more. And while I may always be out of place when it comes to race, I will continue to educate myself as best as I can and absorb the conversation. That’s what matters the most.