How to Be Biracial
I wrote the piece, honestly, out of annoyance that people don't often realize that there is a middle path within the racial binary. I wanted to explain how it feels to be biracial in a way that would make it very simple and understandable to someone who may not necessarily identify as such. That, and I was really influenced by the film Dear White People, a must-see.
Be exotic. Your friends will comment on your hair, your skin, your features, your name. Take it all with a smile and a flick of your curls. If they ask you which side you choose, tell them you really feel like a perfect mix of both. If they keep asking, say you identify as light caramel or slightly-roasted marshmallow or medium brown or some other Crayola color. Never say biracial.
Be calm. If you’re out with your parents don’t be surprised when someone asks if you’re theirs. If you’re strolling down the street don’t be surprised when someone shouts at your ass that you’re such a beautiful redbone. If someone calls you mulatto or house slave or paper bag girl, don’t be surprised. These are natural reactions to your racial identity. Just keep walking and avoid eye contact. Remember, you cry and bleed in black and white and that simply won’t do.
Be a chameleon. If you go to your white family reunion wear pastels like everyone else and cut your steak up small and ignore your skin color. At your black family barbecue wear jewel tones and dance like everyone else and ignore your skin color. If possible, sit out in the sun so you look a little darker. If you get a sunburn, borrow some concealer from your cousin and hope no one looks at your neck.
Be indecisive. Don’t pick a side. Take ballet and African dance classes. Learn to play the saxophone and the violin. Eat collard greens and mashed potatoes. Listen to A Tribe Called Quest and Led Zeppelin. Play basketball and golf. And if anyone ever asks if you’re supposed to be there, if you’re kitchen staff or the sitter or if you just jumped the fence to get into their bright green patch of privilege, point to your white family and smile. Take juggling classes, you’ll need them.
Be unbreakable. When your mom draws a line down the middle of the dinner table, segregating your browner siblings from you and your white dad, stay silent and nod. You don’t understand, she’ll say, you won’t experience what we do because you’re lighter. Don’t cry. If you do, clear your place as fast as possible and leave the room. Don’t shed your white woman tears on a black woman’s issue.
Be self-aware. When you sleepover at your white friend’s house, brush your hair when she does even though it makes your hair frizzy. Be careful when the school asks you to be an admissions ambassador. (We want black, they’ll say, but not too black. You’ve come to the right student, you’ll say.) Don’t sound too black when you talk in school. Talk black when you have your weekly lunch with the black kids. You can say the n-word, but only half of it.
Be funny. Crack jokes about your race. Like how you identify as gray, a mix of black and white. Or how Hispanic people always come up to you and speak rapid fire Spanish expecting you to understand. Or how you and that cute Asian guy from Math Club would have the most beautiful babies. Gesticulate a lot and smile when you tell these jokes in order to signal to your white friends that laughing along with you doesn’t make them racist.
Be open. If your white friends touch your hair don’t pull away. It smells so good, they’ll say, I wish I had curls, you’re so lucky. Make a mental note to buy conditioner, mousse, gel, and spray on your way home. If your black friends say they wish they were light skinned, that you’re so lucky you don’t get ashy just laugh along with them. Make a mental note to buy shea butter and coconut oil on your way home. When that guy you’ve been into forever tells your friend that he’d like you more if you had straighter hair and lighter skin (but your ass is great!) go out with him. Make a mental note to straighten your hair when you get home. Pay for all these cosmetic services with your (half) white privilege.
Above all, be yourself.
P.S. Another reason to tune in to our Women in the First 100 Days of Trump event with CBS tonight? Zora's going to be on the panel.