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.


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About The Author

Bill Miller earned B.Sc. & M.Sc. degrees at Tennessee State University in Nashville and a Ph.D. degree at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (Biological Sciences and Chemistry). He worked as a research scientist for Eli Lilly and Company and for Dow Chemical Company. After retiring, he became a cattle rancher and then a writer, thereby fulfilling two lifelong dreams. Currently, he and his wife, Ruby live in Jackson, Tennessee.

One Comment

  1. Justin

    I have a question. When you say you feel like you’re in between to giant magnets of the races, why does it matter to you? Not anyone else or how others may treat you because of their own willfull bias. Just you. Why identify as a race or biracial? Why not just a person? I’m a person. My skin may different than others or similar. I may be a different height or wieght. I may like different things, I may say different things, but those aren’t me. They are aspects of me. I can’t change them nor would I want to. People not liking certain aspects of me, even to the point of wanting to do me harm matters not one bit, unless they physically active upon them. Other than that, how can another person or group of people for that matter have any effect on you feel? How is it that someone saying ‘I don’t like you because of blank’ have any impact on my life? It’s rather a simple in principle, tough to stick with in practice. These people spouting their negativity at you has literally zero power over you. You as a person. Those people aren’t magic. They can’t make you feel any certain way about anything….. Unless, you let them.
    I’ve rarely had to deal with racism and I’m sure it’s a daily struggle keep you composure in the face of such negativity. But you have a choice. You can accept the negativity, hold onto it. Let make you feel this way or that, or you can let it bounce off you. You know, better than person who has/is/was ever living who you are.
    If you’re ok with yourself that’s all that matters. Everyone has opinions, and being people they are mostly wrong. You aren’t any distinguishing visible feature. You’re a conscience mind. You have the abilty to consciously reject what those people say and do because you know they’re wrong , or you can accept it and make you feel like they may be right. Make you feel like you don’t belong. Like there may be something wrong with. The choice is yours. There is no race. Just a bunch of folks pointing other each other’s differences. The thing about it is, no matter how much people want other lives to be about them they aren’t. They’re about us alone. And it’s up to us alone what we do with these lives we have. They’re special, unique, and don’t last all that long. Better to fill it with yourself than it is to fill it other people’s negativity, right?

    Sticks and stone may break my bones but words can never hurt me…. Unless I let them.

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