As much as I hate to admit it, I’m the epitome of the tragic mulatto. All my life, I’ve never really known who I was or where I would be accepted. Pop culture made it seem like I had two choices: I could choose to be white and completely disregard my father’s blackness or I could choose to be black and disregard my mother’s whiteness. As a young girl, I heard a lot about people being forced to choose one side over the other – being made to check off one box or to describe themselves as something they weren’t. However, as I grew older and became wiser, I realized I could be both. But then again, that was until I realized what the perception of biracial was.
I’ve always had light skin and that means I never truly fit in with the rest of my half-black brothers and sisters. I can put my arm next to my mother’s German, Irish, and French-Canadian skin and she’s always the Gold Medal Finalist at what I like to call, The Dark Skin Olympics. In pictures alongside my white friends, I’m the one that looks like a ghost on the screen of a digital camera, haunting Facebook pages until my friends agree to untag me from pictures. There are times when I think that if my hair wasn’t so stereotypical of blackness (frizziness, kinkiness, and the ever-so popular kitchen sink in the back) along with my full lips and my thick hips, I would have suspected a long time ago that my father wasn’t really my father and my whole life was a lie. I chuckle to myself when I realize I’ve been able to go months without new acquaintances knowing who I really was, only to be met with an amazed, “Really?” when they finally realize who I am. I’m that little girl in the Cheerios commercial – if that little girl was white.
It seems funny during nicer days, but during my confused days, I feel so cheated. It would be nice to have that nice caramel skin that all biracial people seem to have in movies and television, working so well alongside those perfect spring curls and thick hair. I know that when people fetishize biracial people, they are definitely not thinking of someone like me. To them, I’m just a white girl with questionable hair. I’m a light-skinned biracial girl in a world where, for most people, being light-skinned and biracial is Rashida Jones. To me — Rashida Jones is not me. She’s my hidden desire: a woman who can’t confuse people with her race; a woman who actually looks like the best of both worlds. Me, however? I got pale skin, puffy hair, and Angelina Jolie lips. Whoop.
While I will admit that it’s nice to have some amount of racial ambiguity (racists seem to be very open around people they think are white), being a white half-black girl is maddening, especially when white privilege comes into play. I’ll never have the same struggles as my people do. I don’t have to worry about being too loud or too sexy. I don’t have to worry about people calling me a mutt. If I want to dye my hair, why yes, it might fall out after all those years of relaxers and pomades and straightening treatments, but nobody will call me ratchet for emulating Helen Mirren and wanting pink hair just like she had. I will never be looked up and down while in a grocery store. I will never be turned down for a job because of the color of my skin.
In my 18 years of life, my race has made me confused more often than not. Even though I hate the archetypical stereotypes that were written about people like me in the characterization of those tragic mulattos of early, American literature, I can’t say that they are false. I’m privileged in ways that separate me from the rest of my people, but we have shared experiences, so it’s a wonder as to how I could possibly fit in. I’m not white, I’m not black, and for the time being, I don’t even look like the halves of those two wholes, so where do I fit in exactly? Not with the Rashida Joneses, not with the Lenny Kravitzes, not with the Maya Rudolphs, and certainly not with the Barack Obamas.
For us in the other camp: the Malcolm Gladwells, the Cameron Diazes, the Carol Channings, the Mariah Careys – while we can’t speak for each other’s experiences, we’re half, we’re half, and we’re whole.
That much, I know, is who I am.