Gender & Identity, Race, News, Life, Social Justice

I’m mixed race. That doesn’t mean you can ask me, “What are you?”

I'm not your exotic half-breed toy, so don’t treat me, or anyone else, like one.

“Which parent is white?” many have asked me.

That question tends to bother me as much as the “What are you?” question, if not more on some days. Especially when people attempt to soften the blow with the statement, “You’re so good looking” right before it.

My mother has a father of white descent and a mother of Black/Cherokee descent. My father has a father of Black descent and a mother of Black, white, and Chickahominy descent. My mother identifies as biracial in most situations, and my father identifies as Black in most situations. All three of my siblings and I identify as multiracial in most situations. 

Therefore, I find it unsettling that multiracial identity is “cool” when whiteness is in the mix, especially when there are those people so desensitized to our humanity that they immediately ask, “Which parent is white?” They don’t understand that multiracialism is a thing. T – that there doesn’t have to be a sole white parent to look the way I do. 

As exciting as it is to meet other mixed-race people, I always get the most excited when I meet second-generation mixed-race people, especially if we have similar heritage breakdowns. When I was in middle school, I met this one girl who made me laugh when she said, “Yay, we’re mixed-ded-ded!”

However, my story and experiences as a mixed-race person are not important to most – unless my identity is placed in a binary. My interactions with Black, white, biracial, and multiracial people in my family are not considered newsworthy or intriguing. 

Second-generation multiracial people are an afterthought.

Most people who identify as mixed-race and have monoracial parents get the spiel from others who like to tell them why they aren’t [fill one race in the blank here] enough. I was once teaching a poetry class with one of my slam team members, and we had pictures of various things and people the students could draw their inspiration from. One of the students was so shocked to see a picture of a black woman brushing a large amount of hair, and when I told her how it’s possible by using my once long hair as an example, she told me, “But you’re not black, you’re mixed.”

It wasn’t my first time hearing statements like that, but it was my first time hearing that from a child. 

I was too frustrated and shocked to say anything back. My friend had to step in and explain how Blackness comes in different forms, and how multiracial fluidity works when it comes to how I identify day to day. It was disappointing to know how young children are desensitized to people like me and follow what their parents say about mixed-race people.

As a mixed-race person with mixed-race parents, I have received that form of interrogation, along with other variances telling me why I am not mixed enough either. 

There was another time where I felt I had to break down my family tree in order to explain why I identify the way I do, and the person said to me, “But I don’t see you as multiracial, I see you as Black.”

When something like that is said to me, it’s as if I’m a race traitor for choosing to identify with all of my heritages – not just one. Not that there’s anything wrong with mixed-race people with Black descent who only identify as Black: it’s what makes them feel comfortable in their skin. 

It just ticks me off that there are people who feel betrayed by my identity because they don’t understand.

I am proud of my biracial counterparts being able to have their Barack Obamas, Gugu Mbatha-Raws, Tracee Ellis Rosses, Rashida Joneses, Zendayas, and more. My mom, sisters, and I get really excited every time Lena, played by Sherri Saum, on The Fosters goes in on #mixedgirlproblems. And I squealed during Lin Manuel Miranda’s interview when he explained why he cast a biracial actor to portray George Washington in Hamilton.

I understand that I can’t speak on behalf of everyone who identifies as I do. In my personal experience, there are many of us in another niche as multiracial people who still don’t have enough Mariah Careys, Misty Copelands, or Fredi Washingtons (if you don’t know who the last one was, it continues to prove my point – and you should definitely look her up.) 

I enjoy conversations more when people ask me what growing up was like and ask me how and why I identify the way I do.  I will never enjoy people immediately asking me “Which parent is white?” and becoming disappointed when I answer that both of my parents have mixed heritages.

I’m not your exotic half-breed toy. So don’t treat me, or anybody else, like one.