Story by Selena Williams
What does it actually mean to be more than one race? It seems like such a simple question to ask; however, it can be difficult to answer without feeling like a racial impostor.
The phrase “what are you?” is not an appropriate way to ask someone about their identity. Unfortunately, that does not stop people from saying it, or from questioning or even correcting someone’s self-identification.
Rose State student Haley Thatcher, who is mixed - African American and Caucasian- has had difficulties being biracial. She explained her school experience growing up.
“Well, since I went to a 95% all white school it was tough,” Thatcher said. “Finding friends wasn’t all that hard, but still challenging.”
Thatcher said she first realized she was biracial when she was 10 or 11, always received comments about her hair and even stares.
“I did get a question one time how I got my hair so curly, which I thought was kind of strange,” Thatcher said.
Thatcher thinks race is just a way to identify or categorize what we look like. She thinks it’s a good thing because if we did not, we would feel alone.
Former Rose State student, Kourtney Love, who is also African American and Caucasian, lives in Midwest City with her husband and daughter.
“In junior high, I didn’t like being called white because at that time I found out about slavery, so I didn’t want to be referred to as white. It was either just mixed or black; and this guy called me a white girl, it upset me, you know. I didn’t want to be the white girl. “I think at that time it was kind of like, I don’t fit in with one crowd, and I didn’t experience anything like that again until I was 26.”
Love explained how when she was 26, a man called her a black girl and she said it didn’t make sense that all of a sudden she was considered a black girl. That’s when she noticed that being mixed was a thing and some people didn’t like it. She felt like people thought she was either too black or too white.
In high school Love began hanging out with more black kids or mixed kids instead of white kids, because they didn’t interact with her, so she didn’t interact with them. She never experienced what it was like to have white friends or the white culture other than from her dad’s side of the family.
“I would think that if you’re colorblind, then race doesn’t exist, people are just people,” she said. “You know, if we didn’t live in the world we live in, and people weren’t so into colorism then it’s false. People put that in our minds or taught us that because you look different, race exists. In a perfect world, if you raise your kids to be colorblind they won’t know, so race wouldn’t exist. We can interact the same way, we can have the same conversations and if nobody looked at color, we could get the same education and textbooks. So, race [shouldn’t]exist, but it does.”
Love explained how she addresses silly or misguided questions from the outside world regarding her daughter.
“Being mixed, I have had problems with my daughter because she’s brown. She’s much more brown than I am and so people ask ‘is that your real daughter, like you gave birth to her, you had her?’ and I’m like, ‘yeah’,” she said. “I’ve had kids or adults come up to me and say ‘why is she so dark?’, and I’m like it’s because I’m not white and her dad is black, she’s black. It felt like they were saying she couldn’t be my daughter because we were two separate shades.”
On the surface, colorblindness seems like a good thing, since it says we should treat each other purely as individuals. However, race influences our perceptions and treatment of others, whether we want it to or not, and that trying to ignore race effectively means trying to ignore racism, which lets the current racial inequities continue.
“I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be any other race,” Love said. “To be just black or just white, I don’t think I would want to be either. I’ll stay in the middle because each race goes through its own things. But, I couldn’t imagine just being whole when being half you go through what you go through, or you hear the things you hear. Like how much worse could it get, so I’ll just stay in the middle.”
Regardless of race, everyone will encounter some sort of identity crisis in their lives. Many multiracial people find themselves between the racial and ethnic boxes society has put in place. Instead of having our own box, people dip in and out of preexisting boxes that fit depending on the situation they are in. The most important thing to remember is to not make assumptions about a mixed person’s racial identity. If a person discloses their identity, take their word for it. No two multiracial people are the same. All individuals have different stories and backgrounds, but everyone’s story is valid. Recognize and celebrate that.