As a black woman, it’s hard to call myself black in a world that rejects my identity. My mom is black and Filipino and my dad is Creole, so they’re both black. I’ve never had any ties with my roots, except for being black in Los Angeles. The only “culture” I know is the black community in LA, of barber shops on Crenshaw, Westcoast rap, soul food, Baldwin Hills Mall (also growing up in Vegas). My grandma is from Louisiana, and I’ve only been to New Orleans a few times in my life. Still, I’m a black LA girl.
All my life I’ve struggled with my identity, because I wasn’t sure which “box” to fit in. I wasn’t black enough for the hood or the black kids, and everyone thought I was Hispanic.
Here are some struggles of growing up mixed.
You’re never fully accepted – You’re either not black enough, too light, or “different” from the others. It feels like you’re trying to fit in, even when you already know who you are. People get angry when you tell them what you are, because they want you to be something you’re not.
You’re questioned about your ethnicity so much, you have to give everyone you meet a history lesson about your life- It’s annoying to have to tell random people what I am, every single time I meet someone. It’s like a repetitive script I keep in my head, because I know they’re going to ask me what I am. I say, “My mom’s black and Filipino and my dad is Creole,” and so on.
“What are you?” is a question you’ve heard all your life- It’s similar to when a person asks a dog owner, “What breed is your dog?” Random strangers will approach you, and feel entitled to know your background, because they’ve never seen anything like you. You’re like this weird creature.
“Where are you really from?” is another question you’ve heard– I grew up in Los Angeles and partly Vegas, but somehow, people seem to think I’m from this foreign island, somewhere where there’s exotic parakeets and coconuts. People always assume you’re foreign, because you “look different.” One guy told me, “You look like you’re from somewhere, where the sun shines differently.” Not sure what sun that is, but hey- sounds cool, I guess.
People make assumptions about your socioeconomic status, interests- If I listen to rap music, wear braids, hoop earrings, and talk with slang, or hang out in the hood I’m “trying” to be black.
People think I’m a tourist in the streets I grew up in- Every time I hang out in Inglewood, Slauson, or somewhere “dangerous,” people assume I’m not from the area, and that I’m naive, and too proper of a lady to be associated with those neighborhoods. Or, they think I’m a Valley Girl, because I “talk white,” and “look different” so I wouldn’t know those areas. Even if I literally lived there, I’m not “really” from the area, because I’m not “black enough” to be culturally aware.
People glorify and fetishize my non-black, “exotic” traits– People aren’t quite fascinated when I say I’m black, until I say I’m mixed with Filipino and Creole. They think it’s a compliment to say I’m “exotic,” or light-skinned.
“You’re not like other black girls,” and “I don’t like black girls, but you’re an exception,” is supposed to be a compliment.
It reminds me of the slave days, when the white masters raped the black women, and the “mulatto” offspring was apparent. It reminds me of the twisted, ignorant Eurocentric beauty standards in society, where the lighter your skin, the more desirable you are, just like the video vixens in a rap video.
You learn to deal with ignorance- You can’t educate the whole world. As long as you know who you are, it doesn’t matter how people categorize you.
You accept you for you– People will say you’re this and that, you’re not enough, or maybe you’re too much. Whatever you’ve heard, just know that you are a a strong, awesome human being in a world of miseducated people. Just be yourself.