I grew up in a community where black was the thing to be. My friends and family members had an ample amount of pride and confidence when it came to their racial identities and weren’t afraid to let people know. I too had this visceral sense of pride in my identity as a child. When we learned about the Civil Rights Movement and the pioneers of that era, in my mind I would think, “Yeah, those are my people on the frontlines.” When I was asked that dreaded question “What are you?” I never knew how to answer because I felt black in every way. But, my mother had white skin and I chose to acknowledge that. So I settled on the term “mixed” and the rest just fell together nicely. Throughout my elementary school years, I moved along with this pride and the notion that I was, in fact, a black girl. I just had lighter skin, that’s all.
It wasn’t until middle school though that I realized what it actually meant to “be black.” I attended a 98% African-American charter middle school that served inner city kids with the intent to provide them with opportunities not offered in public schools. Your “blackness” was determined by the food you ate, music you listened to, how you spoke, and what you looked like. My long brown curls, clearly enunciated syllables, and deep love for Radio Disney revoked my black card at this school faster than you can say “I voted for Donald Trump.”
“Well, you’re not really black.”
In hindsight, I think I should have noticed the signs. During elementary school, I was never the kid that our white teacher looked at when slavery was mentioned or brought up. I never played double dutch during recess with the other black girls. I was the light-skinned girl with the white mother and the black father. As soon as I realized what I had to do to be black, you better believe I assimilated to my new environment. Suddenly I loved trap music and “ask” turned into “ax” in a matter of days. As I was navigating the already awkward years of middle school, two conflicting aspects of my identity were added to the mix as well. Quite honestly, though, I loved it. Beginning to accept my racial identity for what it truly was really opened up my mind to how awesome it is to be biracial. Now in my mind, I was thinking, “Wow, I’m so cool. I’m different and that’s a great thing to be.”
Now in high school, I am a loud, proud black teenage girl. Who happens to be half white. And as a teen, I am much more comfortable accepting my mixed race identity. In fact, I embrace it wholeheartedly and with full force. To this day, though, I still raise my fist in the air to show solidarity with my black brothers and sisters. I’m still proud of them, of us.