What are you? A question I am oh so familiar with. Growing up, there were always a lot of questions
regarding my race, what I am, and how come I'm/I'm not. These questions would start from simple such as “What are you?” and then move to “So is your mom black or your dad?” and quickly escalate to something along the lines of, “but if you’re black how come you don't…” and “but you don't act black/white?” And my personal favorite when I straightened my hair back at the end of 8th grade, “Do you have a weave?” as the ignorant savages proceeded to touch my hair without asking. Oh, the hair, what a wonderfully aggravatingly subject for me to write on, but I’ll write about that some other time.

Back to racial identity, though, since I don't think I exactly mentioned it before, I'll say it now, I am half black and half white, at least that’s what I've been told (I don't know exact percentages or anything so don't ask). I am what you would call “light-skinned” on the spectrum of skin colors. When you’re as light skinned as I am, people seem not to have any idea what race you are, I've been called Mexican, all different kinds of Asian, and Pacific Islander, and to my knowledge I am none of those, but who knows?

Another part of being from a mixed race that is probably the cherry on top of a sundae, is standardized tests. If you don't get what I mean yet, let me fill you in real quick. When you take most standardized tests in school there's usually a section to fill in your race, and with most, not all, but most there are a whole bunch of options including; White, Black, Mexican, Pacific Islander, Asian, etc. So I’m there looking through these options wondering if there will be a multiracial option or the check all that applied option. But more than half the time there’s not. You know what the option I get to select is? Any guesses? No? Well then I'll just tell you, it is the Other. I and every other multi or bi-racial person is forced to completely exclude who they are and mark Other. Now you might not think that's a big deal. I mean come on it’s just a test, but when that’s how you’re not only treated in tests, but in life as well, it becomes a problem. I know tests have become more inclusive in the past few years, I'm sure because of massive complaints.

Don’t get me wrong, I love who I am. Ethnically speaking, I get to be tan everyday of my life, like white people wish they could and I get to represent two races at once, so it’s the best of both worlds, right? Like a delicious vanilla and chocolate ice cream swirl? Well, not entirely, not to me. Because I am more than once race that includes white and black, I've never really felt like I belonged to either race, like I could hang with either race but I could never quite be one of them truly because I'm mixed. Especially when you hang out with black people and they think you act “white”, and then you hang out with white people and they expect you to act “black.” 

Racial Identity for me has and will probably always be a big part of my life. I think I’ve come to grips with the fact that if I can never really be a part of one of those groups, then I can try to be a little of both. Although, recently I feel like I'm more in touch with my “black” side because of all the racism that’s been happening in this country against black people, and especially because of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. 

What exactly does the #BlackLivesMatter Movement mean to me? Well unfortunately, I'm not as involved as I wish I could be with the movement, but I still support it and acknowledge it as a part of my life. In my world, this movement is a way to call attention to people who think that racism isn't in America anymore, at least not towards Black people anyway. It is a way for people to know the names and faces of the Black lives we have lost because the media brushes over it like it was nothing. It is a way for me to feel a part of something because I am Black. In my opinion the movement is a call for equality for Black Lives who want justice, want to feel equal, and want to feel like they deserve to live. 

But again there's this faint whisper in my ear whenever I feel proud to be Black within this movement. That whisper is telling me that I'm not truly Black, I am mixed, Bi-Racial, a Halfrican American as I've often called myself, and that I shouldn't even be a part of something where I can't call myself Black. But then I realize, I can because even if I am just half, there's still a part of me that is Black and I shouldn't think of it as any less. I am mixed and I love it.

Luckily for me, my best friend knows my struggle because she and her family are mixed race also. She keeps me sane and I do the same for her. Now, I know there’s so many of you with mixed backgrounds who share some or all of the same things I go through. Don’t worry, I get it. 

My best friend and I being our mixed selves 

We have to stick together, embrace who we are, and be proud of it.

- Elyse -


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