Many of us take for granted the pride that comes along with belonging to a group of people. A culture or religion where people share the same recipes, dance to the same music and celebrate holidays that only belong to them. It’s a beautiful thing to share a likeness with others because you know there is another person that exists who can understand you a little bit more.
My grandmother came from a fully Irish family. She went on to marry my grandfather, a full blown Puertorriqueño and had two mixed children. By the time I was born, what once may have seem as different— in my household — was now normal. My father is an African American man, blending me into a triple threat of cultures. The question around identity did not come up for me until I started school as a child. I may have been too young to understand but I never knew that I looked different than my blonde and blue eyed grandma. Or even my own mother who despite being half Latina, has a face full of freckles bestowed upon her by her Irish side.
My childhood friends were baffled and not shy about their confusion. My young brain could barely comprehend the complex questions I was being asked at such a young age. “Are you adopted?” “Is that really your mother?” “Why is she White and you’re not?” — were questions that often came up. I didn’t know being Biracial was so inimitable until these questions began to come up more and more throughout my life.
When I was thirteen, my mother asked me a question I felt was unfair to ask a child. She put me in front of a mirror and said: “Who do you see yourself as?”— a question that echoed through the chambers of my mind and stuck with me my whole life. Although her intentions were not malicious, my mother was raised knowing only a White family and her own white skin. Sadly, my grandfather (el Puertorriqueño) had no communication with any of his kids. So, unfortunately for me, I had no access to a grandfather who could have served as a guiding light during these moments.
My household growing up was so different from anyone else that I knew. I was raised in the projects in Queens, New York. We were around all different types of races and people. As we grew into an even bigger family, new relationships and additions to the family brought in even more cultures to love and accept. Some of my cousins are Dominican, some Ecuadorian, African American etc. All of us joined by a common thread, our White grandmother.
I knew so many different types of people but when it came down to it, it seemed as if I was always the one pushed away from the group. To White people, I’m a minority on the surface. To Black people I'm Latina, and to Latinos... Well, put it like this: I don’t speak Spanish that well.
Yo hablo como una gringa.
I know many Biracial women may feel the same way as me. And when we have expressed our confusion, we are faced with eye rolls, sighs and accusations of playing the victim in our own storyline. I know women with tight curls and fair skin feel me. I know women with perms because their mother didn’t know how to style their curls feel me. And I know all of us who must constantly stop people from touching our hair, FEEL ME. Which, by the way, is not weave — So stop asking us. Since that is usually the follow up question. I’ve been demeaned, fetishized and tormented my entire life. And I know it sounds outrageous, but it's my reality.
I remember reading an article not too long ago that said something like: “When it is too much of a burden to be Black, that’s when Biracial children are suddenly white.” This baffled me because it has never been a burden to be Black, Biracial or anything else. The actual burden comes from society and the constant pressure to make biracial women and men choose sides. It is when I read that, that I finally had an answer for my thirteen-year-old self, standing in front of that mirror.
“Who do you see yourself as?”
For one, I am not some extraterrestrial being to be figured out. My identity is not a math equation. I do not need to box myself into one definition for the sake of making someone else comfortable. As a Biracial woman, I have been lucky enough to see the world with a much larger lense. There is room to embrace everything that I am.
So, to that questions my mother asked me... my answer is this: I see someone who is unashamed. I am a proud Latina who cannot dance salsa to save her life, I am a Black woman who loves her curls, I am the daughter of a White mother whom I adore, and I am me without confusion.
I hope any Biracial women reading this find the courage to love the perfectly seasoned jambalaya that they are, and anyone who isn't finds the empathy to not poke fun and use someone's difference for battle. We're all just trying to live our best lives after all.