It would be an understatement to say my heart is heavy right now. Sometimes I wonder if we as a society are too interlocked and that this “information age” is what is killing us? Everywhere I look there is death, destruction and the battle between US and THEM intensifies everyday. Bombings, abductions, plane crashes, police brutality, civil rights and the like… this is all the stuff that was going on when I was a child and yet here we are going through the same bullshit all over again. Just change the names, the locations, the rights being denied, and some other trivial detail, that’ll lead to Breaking News.
Within the past few months it has become apparent how far we still need to go, to live in the utopian world I had as a small child. Growing up, I was surrounded by all shades of people. My mother and father were polar opposites in the color scale, yet no one ever made me feel like that was abnormal. In fact it seemed to me that everywhere I looked interracial couples and mixed children were abound. The one great thing about growing up on a military base, is that people were classified by rank and not racially divided. Maybe I was too naïve to see anything otherwise, but it really wasn’t until years after my parents separated that I felt or was told I was different. Perhaps that is attributed to the fact that my very German mother still had predominantly black friends, or maybe it was the fact that as a hairdresser she worked in “black” salons until I was in middle school. Truly, the only time that I was ever made to feel different was when my friends would question why my mother didn’t speak English to me. Being that the woman who raised me, was not from the United States, my struggles were that of learning how to be an “American” in general, rather than a black or biracial female.
It wasn’t until my mother and I moved from the Eastside to the Northside and I started middle school that I was quickly alerted to my “difference”. I was asked why I talked “white” or told by a crush that he’d never kiss a black girl. No one knowing the story of how I used to answer the phones at my mom’s salon and was raised by ALL the women in those salons, to speak professionally. No one knowing that every night my white mother kissed me goodnight without my skin every being a issue for her. So you could see that my world was rocked a bit when I realized the my classmates cared about things, I had never even paid attention to.
One of the most memorable and horrific moments in my life was when my mother went to register me for the high school in our newest neighborhood. Up until then my mother would move us to places a bit out of her means, just so I could go to township schools. Now I won’t get into details of how often we moved or why, but I will say as an adult, I am amazed at how my mother did as well for us as she did. I could not imagine living an ocean away from my family, being forced to learn a language and culture I had mildly been exposed to, and doing so raising a child with no help. For what ever reason, we ended moving into yet another area of town, the Broad Ripple district, after the school year had already started. I will never forget standing across from this woman and the disdain in her eyes. It was then that I was told that I could not go to the school that was 4 blocks from my house, because the quota for black students had been met. Now mind you, this is the early 1990s, not the 1890s. I was actually being denied access to the school in my neighborhood because of my skin. My mother proceeded to tell the woman to register me under white, since I am half white and half black. And the woman, a black woman, looked my white mother in her face and said… “she’s black and you’re just going to have to get used to it.” Within seconds I was holding my mother back from physically coming across the table, and within minutes I found out I was being shipped to a school on the Southside of the city… all because my of skin tone and not my racial makeup.
That moment will always stay with me, because that woman decided and made a decision that altered my future. It was that moment that I found out that grown folks were way more judgmental and cruel. It was that moment that I realized that how large the problem was. It became even more apparent to me when I was finally sent to George Washington High School. Which was at the time one of the worst schools in the city. After having the privilege of going to township schools and then going to one of the schools with the worst test scores, highest dropout rates and known for violence, I quickly became aware of the disparity between races and classes. It was that year that I learned about the “real world”. Those days are the days that I wrote the most. The days that I decided that I didn’t give a fuck about what people thought about me. It was when I realized that no one will know my story if I don’t tell it.
Through out my life, I’ve had countless moments, where my skin tone has come into question more often then I can count. And I won’t go into every account because most have been filed away in the “problem with living in Indiana” drawer of my mind. Yet, I have been thinking a lot about what I’ve been through, especially with what has been transpiring over the past few weeks. With the acquittal of multiple police for killing black men in cold blood. Which has made me think a lot about the concept of if my children could “pass” or not. If they’re light enough to not be harassed, not discriminated against and terrified of what things they’ll experience. I’m disgusted with the fact that this is something that even crosses my mind. I’m grateful that my children are proud of what makes them and pray they’ll never deny who they are. My heart breaks for those that actually had to “choose” to pass to have a different life. Yet get enraged when that notion in itself just proves that this nation has deep seated racial issues, when a person has to deny who they are, their family and everything they have known to protect them.
The most disheartening thing for me recently has people that I had thought were my friends, have taken this time to question my blackness. I have been told that once again I don’t have the right to do something because of my racial makeup. I have been used as a measure of whiteness and a measure of blackness all with in the same conversation. I have been put in position to feel uncomfortable with who I am and to tell you the truth, I’m shitty. I am tried of having the fact that I am mixed thrown in my face. I am tried of being called bourgeois, because I’m not “hood”. I’m tired of all the denial that there is an race issue plaguing this country.
When people are being executed without trial because of their race, it’s an issue.
When a judicial system is set up to allow such murder, it’s an issue.
When a mother has to explain to her child, how a child that looks like him can be gunned down with no trial, it’s an issue.
When a child is denied access to a proper education, strictly based on her skin tone, it is an issue.
When you describe a riot based on injustice as barbaric but when the same thing is done for sports, it is an issue.
When the concept of “passing as white” is still applicable, it is an issue.
When the use of blackface is taboo but the name Redskin is “tradition”, it is an issue.
When the hideous face of immigration turns it’s head, all brown skinned people are called “illegals” and Canadians are visitors, it is an issue.
When it takes a writer weeks to even begin to breech the subject of race relations for fear of losing “friends”, it is an issue.
When your “blackness” is routinely brought up but your “whiteness” is constantly thrown in your face, it is an issue.
And let me say this for the record, since it seems inevitable that I will be once again plagued by the question of “How do I identify myself?” I see myself as biracial. I am black and I am German. I will never deny where I am from or who has made me. I am living proof that the race issues in this country have nothing to do with actual racial makeup but everything to do with the color of someone’s skin.
Now I am not writing this for pity. I’m not writing this for accolades. Nor am I trying to say that my life was horrific. What I am doing is telling my story as a biracial woman. I will not claim to have had any bloody encounters with police. I am aware of how lucky I am to not have lost many friends to senseless violence or prison. I simply want to start a dialogue and get something off my chest, as only I know how, by writing.