Hitting Close to Home
I was six the first time I realized I was not the same race as my mother. I remember the day vividly because I was in second grade. A boy in my class pointed it out to me. I of course thought he was a liar and punched him in the nose. When I got home, my mother told me I was biracial. I just figured I was tanned since I lived outside 99% and paled in the winter.
I had no idea what that even meant. I paid no attention to it at all. Until I was nine and my mother who owned a lawn mowing business lost a customer because I got out of the car and came to find her. The man didn’t approve of a white woman having a mixed child. She was really angry at me for coming to find her but never told me why, until years later.
As I grew up I began to notice differences. When we’d go to North Kansas to see my grandparents and we went out to eat everyone would stare at me and my older brother. Later in life I’d find out that my grandparents disowned my mother for adopting biracial children. I guess in the 70’s that was not the in thing to do. Their disapproval must not have lasted long. I spent many summers with them and we were really close.
There weren’t books like “Pretty Brown Girl” when I was a child. My mother had no colleagues who were a different race. I was twelve when I met other people with the same shade of skin or darker. The only exposure I had was my brother and Mowtown. My mom had a collector’s edition. I grew up with the oldies, Barbara Streisand and the Eagles, John Denver and every musical known to man. I didn’t really think much about color until middle school when everyone broke off into cliques.
I didn’t really fit in any group. Groups at that age were so important. I was the odd girl. I didn’t know how to groom my hair like other people my color or understand their dynamics. Slang wasn’t allowed in my house growing up and I’d had a limited exposure to anyone not in my mother’s small circle of friends.
I remember those years vividly because of my mother’s inability to let me find my way or to help me understand the diverse cultures I should’ve been exposed to made it that much harder to figure out who I was.
My grandma always used to ask me when I was going to find a nice white boy to settle down with. First, I was like fifteen and so not ready for that. Second, I used to always tell them I wasn’t white and they’d smile and say they knew. They used to drive me bat crazy with that phrase and I’d leave the room frustrated because of the color reference.
When does color shape that?
Should Color shape anything?
My answer of course in a perfect world would be no but we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in one where people judge for what I like to refer as ‘shit and giggles’.
Every time I think the color barrier has been bridged and things are good, there is always someone to knock it down again, leaving me frustrated and having to start over again.
I was in my mid twenties when I finally gave up on trying to please everyone in my circle and realized, some people were just not going like me and oh well. Now I’m in my mid thirties and although I still feel the same way, it’s hard not to be insulted and to remain cordial when people in my circle who don’t feel that I am “Black” enough to be with my fiancé. That because I let my daughter dye her hair with blue streaks, my son dye his mohawk bright red that I am too lenient, or that my youngest has a smarter mouth than she should and I don’t jump down their throat or hit them…(much).
I can’t help that I was adopted by a white family and grew up differently. I won’t apologize for who I am and what I choose to do. And yet at every gathering with family and friends I have to deal with this particular person who goes out of her way to make me uncomfortable.
Others in our in our group of friends continually call me to apologize for this person’s behavior and I tell them it’s okay. I know it’s really not and that I shouldn’t have to be subjected to that type of behavior but people are who they are and if they don’t care for me, there’s something wrong with them, not me. Not that I’m perfection, I’m continually working to be better than I am.
I never thought I’d be in my Mid Thirties and defending myself to a person of color still. I thought this world I live in has grown past that.
This is one of the main reasons I love writing inter-racial romance. I feel there is much silence from those who share my complexion and downplay or hide what they’re going through. That it isn’t real if it’s not talked about.