March 9, 2021

Half and Half, Part 1

“Growing up, being biracial wasn’t “a thing.” That didn’t start until college.

What Does it Feel Like in this Moment to be a Representation of Both Races — the Oppresor and the Opressed?

IN HER WORDS — Jené (26)

“Growing up, being biracial wasn’t “a thing.” I knew I was two races, but it was rarely something other people pointed out. That didn’t start until college when people decided it was necessary to remind me that I’m mixed. Then being mixed and a lightskin girl was a fad — all girls wanted to be a “lightly toasted” skin color with brown eyes andcurly hair. I don’t know why all of a sudden, we became the “next best thing,” but we did. During that time, being mixed was like winning an Oscar.

Fast forward to the chaos that is 2020 when America is divided by race (I say that as though it hasn’t always been that way). Amidst the #BLMmovement and cops shooting people on a whim, being biracial is a physical representation of conflict. We’re not “Black enough” (according to Black people) or we “aren’t really Black” (according to White people),which makes us “other” as though we don’t belong to anyone but ourselves. (That could sound as though we stand in solidarity, but honestly, it’s pretty lonely.) This divide reminds me of being in 4th grade when I would have to take the fake SAT exams and fill in the damn ethnicity bubbles. It took years for there to be a “Two or More Races” option. I was told numerous times to choose one — cue Jené thinking, “well how TF am I supposed to do that when my DNA is both? Idiots.” But in all seriousness, it was incredibly frustrating that we were forced to make a choice, which I never did — I filled in both bubbles because my 10-year old self was making a point.

Now, at 26, and again during the violence that is 2020, being biracial means you don’t belong, and you have a target on your back perpetuated by both sides. How exactly do we make sense of that? We can’t. Imagine if you woke up every day knowing both black people and white people looked down on your existence. Imagine that you wished you could crawl out of your skin and into some Lily Pulitzer wearing white girl’s skin because it would be easier. Now, I would never change my ethnicity — that’s not what I’m insinuating. The point I’m trying to make is that we, as mixed people, are confused. We are conflicted because of our DNA; our genes represent that conflict. So how do people expect us to be okay with knowing that we are the manifestation of yes, people coming together, but also100+ years of racial hate and divide? And unless you are mixed, there’s no way to understand it, because you are already accepted (generally speaking). We aren’t and never have been. So how exactly is that supposed to not bother us, to weigh on us? We are supposed to be signs of progress, and where has that gotten us? Answer me that.”

I encourage you to read Part Two of this series:In Her Words — Savannah