February 27, 2016
At one time, the law in the United States was that people having any amount of Black African heritage were considered legally Black, regardless of their appearance. Today, people of racially mixed ancestry may designate themselves as biracial or as having mixed heritage. Should it be their wish, they can do so without referencing the color of their skin or their country of origin. The 2000 United States Federal Census was the first time that people having a racially mixed background were given a choice in expressing racial identity.
During the 1960s, Black people chanted the phrase, “I’m black and I’m proud.” Prior to that, most Black people were not proud of being black, because being black came with legal and illegal limitations and impositions designed for Blacks only. Unlike White people, the color of Blacks is quite diverse due to children born from interracial relationships dating back hundreds of years. Those children were labeled as black, because people of multiracial heritage, especially children having a white parent, were raised by the black parent and identified as such.
It is surprising that some Blacks choose not to associate with other Blacks because of their mixed heritage. As a kid, I did not have many friends in elementary school or in high school because of my mixed heritage. I was an outcast. Therefore, being part White and part Black was not a pleasant experience. I was referred to as “white boy” by my classmates, because my White traits dominated my Black traits—the color of my skin, dark blond hair that eventually turned brown, and blue eyes. After all these years, I remember one boy in particular. To this day, I do not remember him ever referring to me by my name.
During the civil rights protests, Black college students hurled stones and broken bricks at me while on my way to school—they thought that I was White. They stopped when I was recognized by a couple of students that ran out into the street to protect me. However, being caught up in a crossfire of flying projectiles was the most frightening experience of my life.
Having been treated as an outsider and rejected by fellow classmates was traumatizing. It resulted in an altered personality characterized by extreme shyness and voluntary reclusiveness—unwanted mind boggling behavioral characteristics that took years to overcome. I never talked about it with my parents or anyone else, but I still remember wondering to myself and asking, “Who am I, and where do I fit in?” I was rejected by both races, and I asked those questions because they were important to me, but I have never been able to answer them.
Today, whenever riding in the car with my wife, she usually drives while I sit on the passenger side with my feet on the dashboard of the car. More often than not, when traveling through a Black neighborhood, young men—teenage boys in particular—stare at us. Whenever I speak to them, very seldom do they respond in-kind. A friend of mine that lives in one of those neighborhoods said, “Those people think that you are a White man riding around with a Black woman, and they don’t like it.”
After all these years, it seems that we would be a better people. Instead, Blacks commit crimes against Blacks; we have racial divides, and the guilty parties do not seem to care. Even today, I feel like I am standing between two giant magnets, one to the right of me and one to the left. I feel as though I am being pulled in opposite directions. Part of me wanting to go toward my White heritage and part wanting to go toward my Black heritage. Yet, I stand firm, and refuse to move in any direction, because I want to be part of both races. It seems important to me that I be like that—unwilling to abandon one race for the other.
Racially motivated offensiveness is permanently carved in the minds of some. They are slow to let go of what used to be, because it has been so deeply rooted and abundantly nurtured that they refuse to change. Theirs’ are the sick minds whose charge is to block the way of a better tomorrow. They do not care about the feelings of others, nor do they seem to care much about themselves. Yet, in spite of what some may think, their numbers are few. Someday, they will pass from this earth and make way for a new generation of men and women that are willing to reach out and embrace each other without prejudices.