Being Biracial is pleased to have one of the contributors for our Being Biracial: Where Our Secret Worlds Collide as a guest blogger. The article below inspired the conversation that ultimately lead to the conception of our book.
Mixed People Are Trending
by Jamie Frayer
Mixed people are trending. I wouldn’t say we are viral—yep I’m one of them—but that’s the direction we’re heading. Mixed people are popping up everywhere. We’re saving fathers one Cheerio at a time. We’re in movies, the news, and … shhhh … your neighborhood.
I grew up in the 1980s, in a large city. I attended schools that were predominately white/black, depending on my address at any given moment. I was almost always the only mixed/biracial—pick one, they both work for me—student in the grade level, if not the school, as was the case for grades 1-5. But now? Now things have changed, mixed people are everywhere.
Today, I live in a small, diversity-challenged, semi-rural community, where terms like mulatto and colored are still used in everyday conversation; where the confederate flag is more common than the state flag (ironically, I live in in a northern state often associated with abolitionists, the underground railroad and freedom), and the KKK still has a visible, yet dwindling presence. Despite all of that, I’ve encountered more mixed children in a couple of hours at Walmart than I could expect to see in months as a child of the 80s.
What’s It Like Being Biracial?
Growing up biracial isn’t easy. At least it wasn’t for me. But neither is growing up black, or fat or female. Or just growing up in general. Children are mean. In elementary school, Ronnie Hicks would sit in the back of the bus and sing the Wuzzle theme song with customized lyrics. Wuzzles were the fad toy the year (1985), animal hybrids that were nearly equal parts of two different species like Bumblelion. The only line I remember from Ronnie’s rendition of such an innocent jingle is “she’s half nigger and half honky.” Nearly, 30 years later and I still equate Wuzzles with Ronnie Hicks. Ronnie was white.
Black children teased me as well, but it wasn’t as overt. Their teasing came in the form of challenging my “blackness”; quizzing me on music, fashion, history and black pop-culture. I mention this because as more mixed people become publicly visible and global, virtual communication grows deeper roots, this “prove you’re black enough” mentality is gaining attention. But the depth of someone’s blackness is another blog, requiring a hard look at black history in this country and the role skin color plays in the perpetuation of centuries old racial ideologies.
Kids need to be trained, taught and supported; that takes time, a decade or two, sometimes three. Until that process is complete, kids will be kids. If it’s not race, it’s your book bag or shoes or lack thereof. I say this because it wasn’t bullying or teasing that made growing up of mixed race hard, it was the sense of isolation, the feeling like you aren’t totally accepted by either race. I was always too black for my white peers and too white for the black ones. I’m sure this feeling is true of many people who are “beautifully blended” with any combination of race, religion or ethnicity. Sitting on a fence, feeling pressure to choose a side, only to have the side you choose rebuke you. I’m not feeling so isolated anymore. People who look like me, have had similar experiences, and who “feel my pain” are now only a stone’s throw away. My people are all over social networking sites, selling apparel, and continuing to challenge the world’s perceptions on race and ethnicity.
Not Allowing Others to Define Me
I grew up checking “other” on standardized test forms. Other. What that does to a preteen girl trying to find herself in a very scary world is hard to describe. For me, it was confirmation of what I’d always perceived; that I didn’t fit into any of the boxes society had created for me. As an adult I have no interest in those boxes, but as a teen and young-adult fitting into something, anything, was all that mattered. Biracial children growing up today have choices. The lines are a bit more fluid. Instead of squeezing people into boxes, we’re creating new ones to accommodate the world’s diversity.
I’m comfortable in my skin now, no longer worried with what the world thinks. I’ve quit allowing the perceptions of others define me. I refuse to wear the labels society has stitched and woven into the fabric of American culture. Each time I see articles like this from National Geographic, a museum exhibit like this, currently at the Carnegie museum of art and history in Pittsburgh PA, I get even more comfortable. Each time I see someone who looks…hmm…blended—maybe the hair is finer, or the skin lighter, or the features softened—I feel confident that my child, my sister’s children, and other Heinz 57 mixes can and will find comfort in their own skin.
The world is changing at exponential speeds. Due in large part to technological advances, boarders are disappearing, people are mingling, and realizations are being made. We, and this time by we I mean the human race, are realizing that we are more alike than different. We are realizing that despite differences in religion, culture, race and history, the struggle for understanding, the desire to improve, the need for love and acceptance is universal. Stories abound in the media of interracial, inter-religious, inter-sex, inter-species marriage. Humans are learning that difference doesn’t have to mean segregation.
Mixed people are trending. We may not have a viral meme (yet), but we’re shaping the world with our beauty, our unique view of society and the role race has, is, and will play in societal advancement. We’ve always been here, in the shadows for one reason or another. Some of us have been so busy trying to squeeze into one of those aforementioned boxes that we’ve lost or forgotten our identities. Some of us have had such extreme experiences that shaped our views on race and how we identify that we’ve blended seamlessly into one culture or another. And some of us have struggled with identify issues for so long we’ve learned to hide or camouflage ourselves.
But we’ve been here all along.Tweet