As a biracial woman, I have always been able to keep an open mind and level head when choosing my partners in relationships. While I have my standards and deal breakers like any other person, I have always been adamant that race will never be a factor in that.
The majority of my dating life up until most recently was varied, but I had not yet been in a serious relationship with a black man. There was never a specific reason for that because I did casually date black men in college, but in terms of commitment it never seemed to work out the way I anticipated. It wasn’t until I entered into this past relationship that I was able to learn and recognize more about my black culture because of the dynamic I found myself in with my partner.
Defending my blackness as a mixed race person has been an ongoing endeavor for the majority of life. Whether that is in my speech, language, skin tone, or hair type, it’s an ongoing conversation had within both the Black community and minorities. It was never anything I thought I would have to defend within a relationship.
My mixed identity is always a conversation I have with my partner, but it’s never been to a point where I feel or they let me feel invalidated because I’m half Black and half Mexican. Upon a chance encounter with a stranger in Chicago, my partner allowed him to indirectly speak about me to my face and disrespect me.
The stranger was discussing politics and the struggle of the black community in Chicago and was seeking to invoke passion within my partner when he looked at me engaged in my phone and said “She’s not paying attention because she does not care about our struggle, she knows nothing of the black man’s struggle.”
I remember looking at my partner who was silent and feeling angry that he let a complete stranger disrespect me in such a non-chalant manner. It was at that moment I realized the man thought I was disinterested in the topic of conversation because he assumed I was not Black. This wasn’t a concept lost on me since to the common eye I am racially ambiguous.
It’s very rare if a person chooses to ask what my ethnic background is that they will get it right, but I never have had a person dismiss any specific culture altogether. I responded to him “I am black, I understand the struggle,” to which he replied “No you aren’t fully black, you don’t.” I looked at my partner who could see the red fury rising in my face and decided now was the time to break conversation and leave the stranger.
We walked away and I shouted several absurdities at my partner for: one engaging the stranger knowing we had a lunch reservation to attend, two for letting him disrespect me. He quickly attempted to laugh off the situation and wanted me to move past it, but I carried it with me all day.
It was in the months that followed and even after the demise of our relationship in my reflections I realized I could be mad at the stranger for invalidating my blackness off of whatever his predisposed assumptions are that I don’t know the black struggle, but being with a black man as biracial woman does not mean he will defend my blackness or has to.
My blackness is my own to identify, protect, defend and as a woman and biracial individual I cannot expect my partner to advocate for my identity. It’s not his job to do so, but in the same token, he should never allow any individual to be disrespectful towards me regardless of the topic.
The man took an easy shot at me because he thought I was not interested in what he was saying, and if anything, after our first exchange I should have walked away without allowing him to get under my skin. I shouldn’t have given him the satisfaction of knowing he upset me or that I felt so moved to argue with him about my own cultural identity.
It changed the way I saw our relationship because I realized not only attributes about him that were distasteful to me in a partner, but made me question how he saw me as a black woman. I’ve always worked to embody both sides of my cultures to the fullest extent, but in allowing a stranger to strip me of that in that moment, I realized he may not perceive my black culture to equate to his own. I may not be 100% black, but that does not mean I don’t identify or haven’t experienced the societal or personal injustices had.
Being bi-racial allows for people to see my identity through their own lens and at times judge my culture on how they see fit. It can be the most frustrating aspect of being biracial because that is something I don’t have control over. I cannot change one person looks at me and sees a Hispanic while another sees Black or some don’t see either and try to impress an alternate heritage on me. Perception can be fickle. I can only control how I choose to represent both sides and educate people on why fellow minorities should never demean or dismiss me because I’m only half of each.