Whether you’ve just realized you’re biracial, found yourself in the arms of a mixed-race paramour, or are expecting your own bundle of biracial joy, being biracial in America is hard. For those looking for tips on how to survive this confusing wonderland of microaggressions and floundering self-confidence, I’ve compiled this how-to guide to help those with mixed melanin navigate the world as I do.
Get used to being asked, “What are you?”
You’ll want to reply with “I’m a human/ woman/ man/ friend/ lover/ business owner/ dog walker,” but you’d be wrong. The answers they are searching for have nothing to do with your occupation, social status, love life, or hobbies. Their question refers to your skin, hair, and features, all of which can confuse those unfamiliar with their mixed-melanin brethren. Sometimes people may appear let down when they find out your true genetic makeup. When I reply with a hearty “half black and half white,” I’ll often get people saying “That’s it?” because they assume I’m something more “exotic”—like Spanish or Portuguese or one of those “pretty” Indians. Don’t be surprised if they interrogate you. “Oh, really?” or “Nuh uh, you’re lying,” because there’s no better practical joke than lying about your race. Be prepared to show pictures of your parents as proof of your authenticity.
Prove your mettle
As a mixed-race person, your natural inclination might be to straddle the line between the races, reaping the benefits of both cultures. But au contraire, my biracial friend, your decision to do so will be questioned and sometimes denied. How do you walk? How do you speak? What clothes do you wear, what music do you listen to, what is your opinion on Black Lives Matter? If any of these things don’t align perfectly with society’s belief of what a black person/ white person should be, you may be ostracized. Be prepared for more questions, such as “How come you don’t sound black?” or “Oh wow, you got the good, soft hair! I can tell you’re half white.” Sometimes the judgment may even come from more insidious corners. “Everyone’s trying to be black, and you’re the only person who wants to be white.” My sister-in-law once said this to fourteen-year-old me as I expressed excitement over the first Evanescence album.
After internalizing the microaggressions and the disbelief at your existence, you’re no doubt feeling a little self-hatred. After all, it’s exhausting to have to constantly remind people of your personal bubble and to steer clear of the rotten stereotypes of your races (re: angry black woman, basic white girl). You’ll start to question your own existence—didn’t your parents know how difficult life would be for their mixed child? Maybe it’ll be easier if you just say you’re [insert other, more convenient race here]. You may wonder if it would be better if you just pick a “side.” Researching the biracial struggle only leads to results coming up short. How did the generations before you survive, those brave souls whose very existence was illegal? The black experience is common—and spoken of in multitudes—but the biracial struggle is seemingly nonexistent.
After ugly-crying while sitting in your shower and rocking back and forth, you’ll probably start to feel better. Now’s the time you realize that you’re more than just a body taking up space. You’re the product of two people who loved each other despite the odds (and sometimes despite the law). You realize, “Hey, I’ve got the best of two cultures wrapped into one.” See yourself as the unique creature that you are. Live your best life, and forget the questioning and negativity that may come your way.