By: Zoe Hobson
Growing up, I heard “what are you” more times then I can keep track of. Out of innocence my natural response started as “American of course”, and quickly turned into a forced smile and a reluctant “I’m mixed”.I never understood why white people were so perplexed with my light skin and kinky curls, I wasn’t a zoo animal, nor was I a gap model that needed constant attention. I was just a child. With the constant stares, and people stopping my white mother, and asking her if I was adopted, I knew from a young age I was different.
Don’t get me wrong, being a biracial woman is a beautiful gift I have received and I would never change who I am with the chance, but the challenges grew as I got older. I think sophomore year of High School is when it got bad. High school became extremely segregated, cliques distinguished themselves by race, what they liked to do, and it stopped being about play dates and the proximity kids lived from each other. We were becoming our own people, forming our own ideas about who we were and who we wanted to become.
It was hard for me to form any ideas about who I was, because I never really knew who I was. Of course I had friends and I fit in while growing up, but thinking back, I never actually fit in with any group. Although I had lived in the Virgin Islands for a few years where the majority was black people, I was too young then to be thinking so deeply about my race and who I actually was.
Like I said earlier, those were the years where friends came by chance, who you sit next too in class, or whose mothers knew each other. So the majority of my experiences in life were in contact with white people. Most of my friends were and are now white, and that was just how it was. They never really had an issue with me being mixed, nor was it brought up much, I just lived. Rarely thinking about my race.
As a mixed woman, I always identified as both black and white. But during my sophomore year, I realized that even though I identified as black, I never dappled with that side of me. Just due to where I lived and my life experiences up to that point, my life had been all…I guess the right word would be…white, my life had been white. So I decided to try harder to diversify my life. I seeked approval from black women. I began to learn more about my island culture and began listening to soul from the 60s.
Many may think this was the wrong way to go about this, but it changed my life. I fell in love with who I was, and thinking about it, I wish this had happened sooner, at this point, I thought, wow, this is a start to my life as a new person, or well, the same person I was with a new attitude towards life and who I was. I was a woman of color, and I feel like subconsciously put that behind me for so many years in fear of how white people would treat me.
Ironically, the opposite happened. I received the harshest comments, stereotypes, and prejudice from black women. As I was trying to find my spot in the world of black women, which I thought would be the most accepting, they were trying to keep me out. They shunned me because, “I was lightskin, and not full black, I didn’t understand the same troubles they went through”, so because of that, I couldn’t be labeled as a true black woman. Yes, maybe I haven’t been through the exact same experiences as them, but to oppressive white people, any person of color regardless of the shade is gonna be oppressed.
So at that point I was back at square one, I’m still not truly accepted and apart of any group of people. This has caused huge issues in my life. Even depression came along, all because I wasn’t accepted by people who I felt should be the most accepting as we have all been through the same issues growing up. But I guess I’m not really black though.
Do I continue to long for their acceptance of me, or do I move on? I won’t lie. I will always want to be accepted as a black woman, because I feel as though I am, regardless of my shade or what percent white I am. However, I’m not going to waste time trying to get approval from those who continue to question who I am.
I will continue to identify as a black woman, a white woman, and a biracial woman, regardless of who will back me up on such identification. Although black women don’t accept me as one of them, I still respect their strength, and intelligence in a country ran by white male dominance.
Even though them seeing me as a fellow black woman is very important to me and I do hope it will happen in my life time, this doesn’t make me think of them as any less. I whole heartily believe their reluctance to let me identify as so, comes from years of oppression, and I can’t argue with built up anger and frustrations. However I will say, the biggest fault of black culture in America is at times, we are fighting against each other and it’s the wrong time to do so.
We should be forming alliances, coming together to stop oppression against us, regardless of our shades of black, regardless of how much money we have. As we fight against each other, we fall more vulnerable to outside forces that want to see us fail, and as we fight, they win.