The days of legal segregation and literacy tests are over. However, being labeled and placed into categories based on complexion is an issue that continues to thrive in modern America. Despite Jim Crow laws no longer being in force, we now racially segregate ourselves; the blacks with the blacks, the whites with the whites. But where does that leave those of us who are neither black nor white; who are both African-American and Caucasian? In such a black and white world, the interracial minorities are often left with no definite role in modern-day American culture.
Being half black and half white, I have experienced a great deal of confusion in regards to my identity. Growing up, I never knew which box to check on the standardized tests when it asked for my race. Kids would often ask me if I was black or white–– or even worse, they would tell me which race I was. Choosing between my two ethnic backgrounds was a concept I never fully comprehended. Not only did I fail to see the logic behind choosing between my two backgrounds, but it was impossible for me to pick only one; I am as equally black as I am white. My inability to choose resulted from the way I was raised. I was always taught that I am biracial, not just black nor just white.
According to Nurtureshock, there are two ways parents of color discuss the issue of race with their children: one through preparation for bias and the other by teaching a sense of ethnic pride. Both can be used; however, the way biracial children interpret the lessons affect the everyday lives of minority children in America.
Preparation for bias was something I was not taught as a child because I was raised by a white mother in a predominately white environment. It was through my own experiences of being victimized by stereotypes that led to my understanding that, because my skin is darker and my hair is curlier, people will look at me differently.
However, neglecting to prepare myself for racial bias, ethnic pride was something my mother ensured was part of me. Growing up in Camarillo– the quintessential town of white, affluent America– there were numerous days when I would come from school in tears because a white classmate of mine would tease me for having curly hair or darker skin. Although I didn’t understand her words of wisdom at the time, my mother told me, “One day, you’ll appreciate not being like the rest of them.”
I was always taught to be proud of who I was and to embrace my biracial makeup. My mother discouraged me from straightening my hair in my attempt to look more “white”. She told me that being different and looking different from the majority is what made me who I was; it kept me from blending into the crowd.
“Different is beautiful,” my mother always said.
Although it took me nearly 15 years to do so, I eventually bought in to my mother’s teachings. I let my curls loose and took pride in my biracial composition, no longer trying to hide the reality that I was half black.
It is through this mindset– being proud of who we are– that we can create a more accepting culture. After all, that is what America was founded on; it is the land of opportunity where everyone– black, white, or some combination of the two– has the chance to become whoever they strive to be. Thus, we should be embracing people of all different cultures rather than categorizing people based on complexion.
It’s 2015, and society is still incapable of accepting a cohesion between blacks and whites. We should be looking at people for who they are as individuals and what they have to offer society, not by which racial category they fall under. Some of us don’t qualify for any; or rather, we qualify for a multitude of ethnic classifications. However, due to the black and white mindset that persists in today’s world, this cultural complexity is ludicrous. We must progress toward a world in which being biracial or multicultural is not only accepted, but is celebrated.