- Posted August 11, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Everyday racism: Your stories
Mixed Emotions: Being Biracial and Racism
- katie, CNN iReport producer
It has often been presented to me that biracial people suffer most because they don't know to which race they truly belong. While it is true that racism often hits biracial individuals from both sides of their ethnicity (and sometimes other ethnicities as well), this belief is untrue.
I am half black and half white. My skin tone is a shade darker than olive tone, three fourths of the year anyway :-). I have black hair, hazel green eyes, freckles, and soft curls that resemble those of Curly Sue. Naturally, depending on the environment I’m in and the culture that surrounds me, I am an easy target for racial slurs and stereotyping.
My first experience with racism occurred at a young age when my white mother took my brother and me with her to socialize in the lower-income black community. Because I spoke differently than most of the children I played with and because my skin was a lighter color and my hair a different texture, young girls would accuse me of thinking I was better than them. I was ostracized for “talking white” and even criticized for the type of brush that I used to comb my hair. Apparently, among children, there are associations made between hard bristled brushes and soft bristled brushes and the people that use them. Using a hard bristled "white girl" brush was just unacceptable. I shared similar experiences when I went to overnight camp for low-income kids which included mostly minorities. I remember fighting a girl at nine years old because, apparently, having green eyes and freckles meant that I didn’t belong there.
Fast forward a few years to middle school and high school years and my environment changes, but my experiences remain the same. During this time, I was in a predominately white environment with middle to upper-class kids. Both schools were Christian schools and comprised probably only 10 minority students within the entire student body. My most memorable racial experience during my middle school years was when one of my fellow classmates, and one of my closest friends at the time, told me that she remembered being afraid of me when she first saw me in class during the first week of school. When I asked her why, she said she thought that I was “going to take a gun out and shoot everyone.” When I asked if it was because I was mixed her response was that she didn’t know I was mixed at the time, she thought I was “all the way black.” It’s laughable now, but it highlights a type of ignorance within certain communities.
High school was much of the same. Because it was a private school with high tuition and I was part of the work-study program where students helped clean the classrooms and bathrooms to pay tuition, it was obvious that I did not come from a family that could afford the high tuition prices. I had teachers that patronized me and made me feel like a charity case and students that were ignorant about races other than their own. But, it was not a tragic experience that harmed me in any way. By that point, I had learned that it is not the race of an individual that makes racism a problem, but rather the people carrying out the racist behavior.
As an adult, I have experienced much of the same from my childhood. I’ve been called an array of racial slurs from nigger to even beaner, my work abilities have been judged because of the color of my skin, and, in certain situations, I’ve had to work harder to prove myself because I have been stereotyped or wrongly judged. I could provide many more racist experiences to fill a book. But, the truth is, they all involve the same variables- an environment with a certain cultural element and ignorance against those who do not share the same background. It is all the same. No matter what race is doing it or who is experiencing it, ignorance is the main driving force behind it.
Being biracial is its own race. There is no need to identify strictly with one race or another. My experiences as a biracial woman have taught me that all people, regardless of background or race, can be misguided and ignorant enough to fall victim to racism. I have learned, as a child, that the real change is going to take place within our families and our children. Otherwise this lack of knowledge, tolerance, and acceptance is going to foster an unnecessary hatred.
I guess, utlimately, we need to remember that racism results from ignorance. So if change is impossible in certain situations then just laugh it off. This Mexican looking mixed girl does :-)