I'm not even supposed to be here today!!!
I am not an expert on literature or history but I am an expert on being a bi-racial person raised by a white mother and a black father and that is the perspective I am writing from today. I try not to live my life in a historical context because I am not an expert but I am smart enough to use it as a frame of reference. As an example so you understand my thinking. I am fully aware of how slavery has greatly impacted life in America but I can honestly say that I think about it less than ten times per year.
Please don't be offended if I don't mention other bi-racial combinations, I know you're out there. I'm being specific because the WM/BF combination is what I know.
There has been some talk about race this week and although I value the discussion I believe that some of the framing has been less than honest or should I say it has been honest but the tone or underlying message has been ignored.
I am what some people refer to as a bi-racial person. The two races that I am made up of are a catalyst for many a discussion on race in America. My mother is white my father is black. They both did the best they could raising me and I promise to do better than them.
The tragic mulatto is a stereotypical fictional character that appeared in American literature during the 19th and 20th centuries, from the 1840s. The "tragic mulatto" is an archetypical mixed-race person (a "mulatto"), who is assumed to be sad, or even suicidal, because they fail to completely fit in the "white world" or the "black world". As such, the "tragic mulatto" is depicted as the victim of the society they live in, a society divided by race.
I will admit as a teenager when my world and interactions were mostly with other teenagers with yet to be developed brains, that being a bi-racial person was frustrating. Dealing with my own inability to understand how to best fit in equally to both the "black" and "white" world was enough to drive a person crazy. Dealing with how other teenagers felt I should fit in to both the "black" and "white" world quite unequally was an entirely different level of frustration.
Don't get me wrong, I wanted to have long straight hair so when I was running around the bases and getting ready to slide in to home plate, all the girls would think I was fly when I took my helmet off and shook the dust out of my hair in victory. I wished that my curls were tighter super tight so the waves would stick and actually look live waves. It certainly didn't make me sad and maybe from a literary standpoint some of those moments could be used to create a "tragic mulatto" but I'm a real person and far more complicated than a definition and a character in a story and it is downright disrespectful to pretend that my life can be so easily broken down into some character in a narrative that is in desperate need of modernizing.
It wasn't until my early twenties(22) that I discovered that fitting in to either of these groups equally was pointless. For most of my life my interactions with white or black people with regards to my point of view on race considering my being both sounded something like this...
These are questions I have actually been asked.
"Why do you talk like that?" Both
"I wish I had curly hair." W
"You got that good hair."B
"You think you're better?"W
"You think you're special?"B
"Why are you so loud?"W
"Why are you so quiet?"B
"Can you jump high?" W "Yes, I can."
"Can you dance?" W "No, I can't"
"How come you don't like us?"B "You tried to jump me last week!!!"
Why don't you date black girls?" B "there's two of you in the school and you both have boyfriends!!!"
From an outside perspective I can see how some may think it could make someone sad but it's more of an annoyance than anything.
There are many things in this world you can't understand unless you go through them. My particular experience is not uncommon but it's not everyone's. How a bi-racial person identifies is based mostly on their interactions with the group that they spend the most time around.
If a bi-racial person spends most of their upbringing or developmental years around black people and they have a positive experience, they are more likely to identify with black people.
The same goes for a bi-racial person who spends most of their developmental years around white people. If the experience is positive they will most likely identify with white people.
Our president for example adds another twist. He spent a good chunk of his developmental years around neither and was always exposed to diverse communities that didn't always reflect his background a white mother and a black African father. His stepfather a man who had to have some influence on him was neither black or white. So his developmental years lasted longer than most. He settles in to Chicago in a predominatly black area, has a positive experience and goes forth.
There are many of us who split their development rather evenly among larger groups of bi-racial individuals (like myself). I've had positive experiences with both side of my family and in that family there are a large number of bi-racial children. That is how I identify.
I am as proud of my mother as I am of my father and am critical of both when I feel it is necessary. I was spitting mad when Adeptu was removed because I believed he was right. I was equally mad when a diary written a few days ago began to make claims about bi-racial people and the implications of their choices were mischaracterized to say the least.
The vast majority of bi-racial people are not rejecting a color, they are rejecting experiences and most often they are rejecting idiocy. It is not just our skin color that makes us who we are. It may make a difference to other people, but as individuals to ourselves, we are made up of the things we experience and how we perceive those experiences.
I wrote this diary to give my limited perspective on what it is like to be a bi-racial person in modern day America without involving all the historical baggage that this country can bring with it because that is not how I live my life and it is not how the young people that are coming up in today's society are living their lives.
Please everyone for the love of God, don't be tricked in to thinking that a bi-racial person can't make a rational decision about how they identify based on their own experiences and perceptions. Don't be tricked in to thinking that "white" or "black" are the only real choices a bi-racial person has to make or that they have to honor equally the racial backgrounds of their parents, because they don't.
The title is a quote from someone who was lauded by many for writing a diary that has something to do with what you are about to read. I hope that people read that diary and the comments made by the diarist to those that actually have experience raising and being a bi-racial person give you the proper perspective on where he is coming from.