I have to admit, I have never thought much about the identity of those who are biracial. While it is true that all African-Americans are mixed with “something,” most of us simply identify as Black. This is easy to do when whatever we are mixed with is not obvious or apparent. However, there are times where matters of identifty are not so simple.
One thing that I have noticed when it comes to people who are biracial is that they are sometimes pushed into “choosing” a side. Will you have more black friends? Who will you date? What area of the cafeteria will you sit in? What family members will you relate to the most? How will you dress and wear your hair? Interestingly enough, the lives of those who are point to larger issues we have with race relations, social construct, and cultural identity.
Studies have shown that mixed race people are at great risk for suffering from identity issues as children. This is especially true if the individual is mixed with races of two very different cultures. Children begin to notice at a young age that they have a physical appearance that is different from others around them. This realization leads to confusion, questioning, and at times, anxiety.
Even as children, we all want to belong. Whether it’s a certain club or a particular team, everyone wants to fit in somewhere. The same is true as we grow older. All of us are trying to find our place. This ultimately leads to individuals “picking a side.” Even more disheartening are the feelings of not belonging, hurtful comments, the embarrassing “what are you” lines of questioning, and isolation by those who are unable to place you.
As an African American woman, I may never fully relate to issues that those who are mixed experience. Yet, I am fully aware of the things that I take for granted. Such as the ability to check a box for my race. The fact that I am never questioned about who or what I am. The ease with which I am able to relate to other black people without being questioned or ridiculed. For mixed people, this is not always an easy choice. Many mixed individuals are not able to immerse themselves into both of their cultures. This destroys the opportunity for one to become a well-rounded and culturally diverse individual. That is the thing about being mixed. Despite the diverse person that you are, without proper guidance, that diversity is never fully realized.
The struggle of not being Black enough, White enough, Asian enough, Latina enough, or even mixed enough, is one that plagues the lives of many daily. It is true that we are all mixed with something. However, to the world, perception is a reality. If you are perceived to be Black, you are Black. If you are perceived to be White, you are White. But if you are perceived to be something that does not fit into a neat category, your identity is debated and questioned. That’s the thing. That’s the thing about being mixed.
Written by Michaela Phelps
Featured piece from Kwapi Vengesayi‘s book, Men Cheat More, Women Cheat Better: Stories and Conversations About Love, Life and Everything in Between (2017) Available on Amazon