When you’re different from the norm, it’s hard – if not almost impossible – to blend in. Some people are different on the inside: no one truly knows what they are like until they talk to them or get to know them. When you wear your difference on your skin though, hiding isn’t so easy anymore. There are a few differences I’ve had to face as an interracial person growing up. Here are a few differences that I’m sure others can also relate to as well.
You don’t exactly fit in.
You find that when you are in school or in groups, you tend to fit in less with others. For me, as a black and white individual, I didn’t really find that I fit in with the other dark skinned kids or a lot of the white kids. Having white parents though helped me learn what is considered “whiteness.” I spoke like someone that was white, I engaged in activities that are traditionally white, I followed trends that were in essence, white. Other than the color of my skin, I was “white.” For a long time though, I tried to identify that way, so that I would be able to fit in somewhere. Eventually I realized that it was less about fitting in and more about feeling comfortable about who you are. But that took me almost 20 years to figure out.
I hung out with the “preppy girls” when I was in middle school, and then I hung out with the emo/punk kids, then I just kind of hung out with whoever I damned well pleased. Even fitting into those groups was challenging because they were traditionally white. I would occasionally get comments like “You can’t have curly hair if you’re emo” or “You can’t sit at the popular table, you aren’t like us.” I learned to just take everything in stride form that point forward.
You are subject to stereotypes.
As someone who is half black, I am subject to all sorts of stereotypes. I’ve gotten comments about how I’m “pretty for a black girl” and how “I order chicken all the time because I’m black.” (Let me iterate that I eat mostly chicken because that’s how my diet is; I avoid red meats and pork. It has everything to do with health and nothing to do with race.) I also feel that I get taken less seriously than my non-colored counterparts. I remember telling a professor of mine that I wanted to become a doctor. His response was, “Oh, you don’t want to do that, why don’t you look into something like counseling.” It’s incredibly frustrating because I know what I want. I feel like sometimes I’m incredibly underestimated.
Oh. And if I hear someone tell me that I’m “Jamaican them crazy” one more time, I’m going to destroy them.
You are often fetishized.
I mentioned this a little bit in my article about interracial couples (check it out here.) Being different means that people fetishize you and, effectively, dehumanize and diminish you as a person. It is a damaging concept that a person is like a sexualized stereotype. As someone who is half black and half white, I get stupid comments like “Get a girl who can do both” or “Ooh you must be really exotic.” Am I really? I’m from New England. So if you mean exotic by the fact that I like “Chowdah from Harvahd Yahd” then yes, you are absolutely correct. (I’m kidding I actually hate chowder.) I’m also often pursued by people solely because I look “different.”
My hair has a mind of its own.
Being someone with black and white interracial roots, my hair doesn’t have a clue what it’s doing. It’s curly, but not too course. It straightens, but not well. I usually try to use chemical relaxer on it so it’s manageable, but also I have to worry about damage. Then people assume my real hair is the way it is when it’s relaxed. I always get “You’re hair is so cool, I wish my hair was like that.” No, you don’t because my hair doesn’t even do this normally. It’s a struggle.
People assume that you have identity issues because you are interracial.
As a mixed race person, I find that people are under the assumption that I have some kind of “identity crisis” brewing. It’s honestly not true. People assume that because “Melissa has a white parents, but Melissa is not white” it means that I am just some culturally confused individual that yearns for my black roots to be satisfied as well as the white roots. I really don’t care about either. I don’t think too hard about my race, and the cultural aspects don’t really affect me. A person’s identity is not homogeneous; I don’t assume yours is, so why do you assume mine is.
Medical situations can get sticky.
If you want to know what you are genetically predisposed to, it may be difficult, because generally some ailments are associated and are more common with certain racial backgrounds. The fact that the doctor should be asking you what you are is also an issue, as many don’t bother and assume what you are (i.e. unethical.) Another problem comes with issues in finding donors for things like bone marrow transplants. You may not be so lucky as to find your racial mix in adequate time. Two-thirds of white patients find an appropriate donor, while only one-fourth of nonwhite individuals do. So, the likelihood of finding a mixed donor? Well, good luck.
Eventually, as a mixed race/interracial person, you learn to love and accept yourself. You stop listening to everyone around you. Ultimately the only opinion about your race that matters is your own.