Biracial and (not) proud
When your skinfolk don’t want to be claimed
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium on June 30, 2019 and has been moved permanently to Substack.
“Your hair is like Buckwheat’s.”
“You have the wrong kind of hair to be from Chicago. The wind just makes it blow and stay that way.”
“Why are there HBCUs anyway? There are more white people in the U.S. than black people. People should just go to regular colleges.”
“I’m not even black. I’m American.”
“Dreadlocks are just made of dirty hair.”
“George Zimmerman was protecting himself. Trayvon Martin was an adult.”
“Why do we have to have a black woman as the featured image on that piece? Diversity means more than black people. You can just pick somebody who’s Hispanic.”
These were the kinds of comments that stuck out to me when conversing with a former colleague. I would’ve been better prepared to hear this kind of rhetoric during my first two years of college, where I was one of less than 100 people of color in a school of 8,000 students. But I was somewhere between startled and disappointed to hear these comments from a biracial man who was also a person of color.
Now whether he wanted to be a person of color was an entirely different story. But he grew up in the kind of household that definitely voted for Donald Trump and listened to FOX News regularly. While his biological parents did not raise him (one of which was Jamaican), he’d never had black friends or even black families come into his childhood home.
I once explained “passing” to him, and he smiled broadly and said, “That’s me!” Initially I hoped he meant that as a joke. I quickly realized he did not.