Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Should You Exist?"

*originally posted 11/12/2012 on a blog I have since merged into this one.*

I recently had someone ask me, "Do you think your parents shouldn't have married and had you?" I looked at this person and quickly exclaimed, "You can't ask me that! That's like asking me if I think I should be allowed to exist!!" See, this friend only saw the romantic ideas about interracial dating and relationships. She was looking at how cool it is to date outside your race and how it would be different from what her family expected. She was not looking at it from the perspective of a potential child in that situation. She wasn't looking at it from MY eyes.

After a few moments of a stony silence, I started talking again. I was brutally honest. I sat there and I flat out told her the good, the bad and the VERY VERY ugly moments that can happen in a multiracial family.

So I told her that sometimes I did wish my parents were the same race. She looked at me like I had grown a second head. I told her how I was 8 before I heard or met someone else who had a white mom and a black dad. I told her of the loneliness I had because I didn't know anyone like me. I told her how it felt to go to the park and have kids call me "Zebra" and "Oreo" when they saw my family together. I told her about children being taught to hate at young ages who would call me a "white n*****". I told her about friends who were allowed to play with me one day and not the other. I laid it all out there for her to see.

I also told her about the time I was walking home from a friends house when I was probably 10 or 11 years old. Our street had been under construction (I think they were getting ready to pave it) and I saw a "MISSING CHILD" sign on the barricade to my street. My parents had always taught me to look at the missing children posters and see if it's a kid I knew, so I walked up to the sign to read it. The words on that sign have haunted me ever since. I can't look at those posters the same anymore because in the back of my mind, I'm terrified it will be the same racist message I found as a child. On the poster was a little blond headed, blue eyed boy and the caption said, "MISSING: THIS CHILD'S HOPE FOR A FUTURE. BECAUSE OUR WHITE WOMEN KEEP MARRYING BLACK MEN." I remember crying as I tore that poster off the barricade and going home to talk with my mom. That moment has always lingered in my memory.
 Looking back at it now that I'm an adult, I have come to realize that whoever placed that sign on the barricade to my street had to have known my family lived there. It would be way too much of a coincidence that the only sign I saw with that message was on the barricade to my street when there were multiple barricades in the neighborhood. 

I told her of random people looking at me and flat out asking me, "WHAT ARE YOU?!" and knowing "human female" was not the answer they wanted. Of people who ask me to check for bumps on the base of my skull and people trying to figure me out. Teachers who flat out called me a "mulatto" to my face. I have had to deal with people thinking they could say all they want to me because I didn't fit what they wanted me to be.

All my life I have been forced to defend my right to be on this planet. I have been forced to accept how people want to identify me. I have been pigeon-held into forms that tell me that I have to only "pick one" race when there are multiple races inside me. By filling out forms they want me to, I have been forced to try to smother half of me-- to pretend that part of me doesn't exist. To hide who I am, to hide my family from the world. 
I was ecstatic when in 2000 the census forms allowed me to mark more than one option to finally be allowed to define myself as I am an not try to fit someone else's mold. I could finally define myself. Then I learned that how I fill out a form is still subject to how someone else decides to interpret the form. Just because I make both Caucasian and African American, it doesn't mean the form will be read that way. Whoever enters the data has the final say.

I'm still fighting this battle. Now it's with the Human Resources. In a county where multiracial people are EVERYWHERE, I still can't get HR to add a category for us. When I looked at my Human Resources profile, I was disappointed to see that they marked "WHITE" for my race. I am not just a White woman. I am also a BLACK woman. I am a beautiful combination of two races and when I tried to get them to change what they had on my file, my options were: 1-have them mark me down as being BLACK only, 2-- leave it as WHITE or 3-- have HR change my ethnicity to OTHER.

I AM NOT AN OTHER!!!!!  I am a human being. I'm not some ET looking, Star Trek turtle shell wearing humanoid from the Klingon Empire. I am a BIRACIAL woman who should be able to identify myself they way I choose. 

When I asked HR why they were unable to identify me the way I identify myself, they told me that they couldn't make a new category in the system. A new category? Interracial marriage has been legal in all 50 states since 1967 when the Supreme Court brought down the decision in Loving v. Virgina (388 U.S. 1) reversing years of laws against multiracial marriages. So, if interracial marriages have been completely LEGAL since 1967,then why in 2010 was I told that the system couldn't create a new category for those of us who identify as multiple races?! Oddly enough, marriages often produce children. It's not like I'm the first multiracial person to walk the planet. I can't be the only one to question this policy.

I know it looks like I'm angry and hate being multiracial, but I don't. I love being unique and I love both of my families very much. I wouldn't change being multiracial for anything in the world. I can't imagine just having one race in my family, one kind of blood in my veins. I couldn't chose a better family to be a part of and I know that if both my parents were the same race, I wouldn't be me. I wouldn't exist. Sure my parents may have had children with different spouses, but none of those children would have been me. So, would I change anything. NO. Not for all the money, prestige and material possessions in this world. I love who I am. The things I dealt with growing up made me the woman I am today. I wouldn't change them at all. 

Also, I acknowledge that multiracial children growing up today won't face the same things multiracial children did in the 1980's and 1990's. Multiracial children are much more abundant now. I see so many kids on a daily basis who are multiracial it fills my heart. Those kids will grow up with each other and know that they are not alone in the world. They will have amazing support systems and other people they can relate to. They are growing up in a changed world. They will have other issues to deal with that I didn't deal with as a kid, but this one-- being multiracial in a mono-racial world is not something they will suffer through. 

So if you ask me if I would recommend an interracial relationship, I'll be the first one to say YES! Maybe it's selfish. I mean if I said no, I would be telling the world that I shouldn't exist. Dating or marrying someone of a different race than yourself is not something to take lightly. Both partners need to sit down and figure out if it's something they can handle. It won't be all sunshine and roses. Being in an interracial family is hard work. You'll have people who hate you just because your family isn't mono-racial. You can and probably will hear harsh words and see things that you wouldn't want to see. The children may have a rough road ahead, but your family will be stronger. 


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