I always get offended when people call me mixed. Nobody ever really understands why either. You can say my mother greatly influenced my thoughts on my racial identity. I’ve also put a lot of personal thought into exactly who I am throughout my 29 years here on this earth. It’s not really a cut and dry answer to why I identify the way I do. For one, “race” is a myth anyway. Still, as long as racism exists and I have to check a box, I have to decide who I want to be.
First and foremost I have always identified as a Black woman. My mother is a self-identified Black woman and my father, a Black man. Now, taking a look at ethnic make-up, my mother is of both African and European decent and my father of African and American decent (Native). All of this of course cannot be broken down to an exact percentage because of the grand ol’ American pastime that is slavery, but for now, lets just say that I am 50% African, 25% European and 25% Native American. And we can break that down even further. Of that 50% African, some is Moroccan, some is Arab, and some is I have no idea what because again, slavery. Of that 25% Native, some is Cherokee, some is Chippewa, some is Black foot. And of that 25% European, some is German, some is Dutch, some is English, some is Italian, some is Spanish, some is Irish. So yes, I am very ethnically mixed.
But, so are most Americans. Think about it. Do you know anyone whose parents are both the exact same ethnicity/race/nationality? Especially Black people. Half the time they can’t trace their lineage back past the last slave owner let alone all the way to their country of origin. The fact that slaveholders purposefully split Black people up to weaken the community and had tons of fun raping our women tells us that we’re all probably more mixed than not. So when someone calls me mixed, it’s as if they are trying to assert that they’re not or that there are people who are “purebred.” Which in most cases, isn’t true. At least not when talking about Black people in America. (Not to be confused with African people in America).
That is problematic for me because calling me “mixed” is a way to set me aside from other Black people. It’s divisive and a tool of the oppressor. I’m always sadden when Black people tell me, “Well, you’re mixed.” I want to scream, “Well, you’re mixed too.” But the natural inclination is to separate. There’s us and them. There are Black people and then there’s mixed people. Why can’t we all just be Black. If I choose to identify as Black, who are you to tell me otherwise?
Furthermore, although other Black people may see me as “mixed” everyone on the outside simply sees me as another Black person. So not only do I self-identify as Black, but the world sees me as Black and it seems the only ones who try to convince me otherwise are other Black people. I’ve never been called mixed by a white person.
Earlier today I was involved in a conversation on Twitter with a Black man who is mixed with white and he said, “Being mixed is a blessing . Let’s you see both sides all sides not just one side….I’m a white man just as much as I’m a black man.” Reading it made me shudder because there is something eerily wrong with that statement. Sure, growing up with relatives of different races may expose you to different cultures and what not. I know having a white grandmother definitely shaped my likes and interests to be different from some of my friends whose grandmothers are not white.
However, as my mother pointed out years ago in regards to her own personal experiences, I will NEVER know what it is to be a white woman. I will never be treated like white women are treated. I will never be able to navigate thru life in the way that a white woman would. I can only experience life as a Black woman. I honestly can’t even experience life as a Native woman because I am so far removed from my Native roots. And when people see me, they do not say, “Look at that Black, white and Native woman.” They say, “Look at that Black woman.” People call me “nigger” not “honky” or “redskin.”
All negative thoughts aside, I do think it is interesting that I can say I have ancestors who came to this country on the Mayflower, those who came on slave ships and those who crossed the Bering Straight thousands of years ago. My genetic make-up is a pretty awesome representation of many different parts of the world; my roots can be found on almost every continent. However, when it comes to race and ethnicity, even culture, I choose be a Black woman. I am a Black woman and there is nothing else I would rather be. You may choose to identify as whatever you wish, but the world sees me as a Black woman and I see the world thru the eyes of one.
So, in conclusion, don’t call me mixed. Thanks.