In America many things are polarized; you’re either on one side or the other. We’re polarized in our politics, our religion, and even our schools. But polarization affects a particular group of people in the country; biracial people. As a biracial person myself I have consistently felt the difficulties of finding a mixed identity in a black and white world. In this world you are made to make a choice, a choice that will forever determine your identity amongst your peers.
Being biracial in America is something not many people acknowledge as a real identity. Think for one moment, how many tests or applications that require you to put down your race actually have a section for being mixed? Not many right? In 2000 the U.S Census has allowed people to pick more than one box to determine race, but the problem still remains; the races that make up biracial people are still seen as separate. It’s as if those of mixed race are grouped together for the sheer sake of simplicity. Because who wants to take the time to figure out what race you actually are? Some mixed people get lost in different crowds because they can’t ever identify what they actually are, but rather identify with those who’s complexion they resemble the most. For example, I am mixed with both black and white, which in 2016 seems fairly commonplace. But due to my darker complexion I am usually designated as a lighter skinned black man. Now while I am far more in touch with my black heritage than my white, it still seems as though only one half of me sticks out.
This is where the problem comes in; mixed people are constantly split into halves. Those of lighter complexion than may be labeled as Caucasian, but still be far more in touch with their African-American heritage. When people view those of mixed race by only one side of their genes, they are only seen as one half of a single whole. To not acknowledge my Caucasian or African-American heritage is to acknowledge only half of me. The same goes for those of others of mixed race, such as those who are mixed Latinas.
Sometimes biracial people are seen as standing out from the crowd once their identity is discovered. A situation like this happened to e when I was in 2nd grade. While attending a Catholic school, me and my fellow classmates were given an assignment in which we were to create a paper bag puppets representing a saint. Seeing as I was the only openly biracial child in the class, my teacher intentionally assigned me with a Peruvian saint who was biracial. Not only that, she made the face of my puppet brown while the other children, including the black ones, got white faces. This only further isolated me from my peers, both black and white. What is even more alarming is that some are even stigmatized amongst other minorities. I’ve been told before as a child that I’m “too white” to understand the struggles of black people, despite the fact that systematically we’re seen as no different from each other.
Now a lot of this is not intentional. It would be unfair to be upset at people who can’t immediately tell that you’re biracial. I myself can’t tell whether or not someone is mixed. The trouble comes in the form of willful ignorance; when people intentionally see you for only half of your racial identity. During the Jim Crow era there existed something called the “One Drop Rule”, which dictated that if one had even one black or African ancestor, they were automatically considered black. It’s been decades since that rule has publically subsided but even now that idea still unconsciously remains. This unwilling labialization is, as I see it, the biggest factor in biracial people’s struggle for truly finding an identity. You are either one or the other; you can never be both.
But the way I see it we are not half of anything. We’re human. We have lives, and families, and a perspective on race in America that’s unique to us. Who’s right is it to say you’re only half of something? No one. Those of mixed race are proof that prejudice can be conquered, for with out those two different halves there could not be a beautiful whole.