I am mixed race, or, at least, I am trying to be. It is not easy when everyone around me expects me to be black.
I walk around school with a red, black and green Africa necklace hanging down to my belly and Rasta-colored sunglasses on my head, so how could I not be Afro-centric is what people think, and they rarely seem to understand when I tell them that yes, I am black, somewhat, yes I do love West African culture, but no, I do not consider myself an African-American.
More often than not, my racial identity seems to offend people, especially black people. In fact, last weekend at Ring Ceremony, I had one black mom yell to me from across the bleachers that I was “denying myself” by refusing to be in a picture with all the other black seniors, making the argument that it would be hypocritical for me to take a picture with the kids from my elementary school and not take one with the black kids at Harvard-Westlake.
That woman was wrong because black is not myself and neither is being mixed. Race is not something that I am proud of, nor is it essential in defining who I am because it is not something that I have accomplished, but rather something that has happened to me. The only reason I am black is because my father decided to have a child with a woman whose ancestors had a high concentration of melanin in their bodies.
What do my father’s choice and my mother’s melanin have to do with me? Nothing.
Being a student at Westside Neighborhood School, my elementary school, on the other hand, is something that I can mark as being one of my academic achievements.
However, living in a city with a tradition of assuming that if one looks a certain way one must be a certain way, it is a hopeless effort to try to convince people of the separation between the color and content of a person.
It is just sad to see that so many black people, who not so long ago did their best to prove that we are not what we look like, are buying into the idea that looking black is being black and that to deny what seems to them an undeniable racial truth is to consciously choose to turn away from oneself.
In the past, one was told one’s race by others, and that was just the way it was. Society determined what color you were, but I like to think that in today’s world, we have the freedom to choose for ourselves which groups we identify with. I have nothing against black pride or gay pride or any feeling of dignity for being a part of a category. It is only when people are forced to feel pride for categories that they have not joined out of their own free will that I begin to take issue.
Me is a word that has different definitions for different individuals, and so, unlike other words, it cannot be universally defined.
If you try to describe what it means to be me, most likely, you will get it wrong because no one but me knows who me is or what I am, and, even then, we still may not be completely sure of who we are.
I have thought long and hard about my racial identity, and I finally know that I am a mixed-race individual, and I always will be…except for on my college applications, but that is a story for another article.