Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Being Multiracial and having a Multiracial Child

I fully understand the rules involved with sharing on the Internet.  Most of you I will never meet and therefore you have no idea about any facet of my life.  If I don't share it, it stays my secret. 
Writing is cathartic to me, it always has been. I started writing my short stories at age 4. My mother found them and tried to do creative writing exercises with me. She would tell me who I had to add and what the characters were going to suddenly decide to do. Or she would find an article in the paper or the Reader's Digest and make me either write a report or expound upon the article.  I am writing this blog as a follow-up to those dreaded exercises.  I have to get the stories in my head out and journaling is not working any longer. Because I need to do this cathartic exercise for myself,  and not for anyone else, I will be as honest as I can be. The more I write, the better I will become.
This entry will be difficult to write because it is so personal. 
Being mixed race is not new to my generation. My family roots in America can be traced to slavery.  I had an ancestor who was a slave of a man whose last name was Page. She ended up having his child. He in turn left her money and land. My family lived in the land as recently as my Grandfather.  My family had another slave who ran away to the Blackfoot Indian tribe. He had a child with an Indian woman. It is not truly multiracial but my Grandfather's parents were from two different regions of Italy.  My Grandfather's mother was from Northern Italy and was so fair they called her the Dane (this was the turn of the 1900s, life was different. ) My Grandfather's father was from Sicily.  This caused a disruption because this was just not done, and the immigrated to America.  My Grandfather was a soldier in World War 2 and was billited at my Great-aunt's house in London.  My Welsh grandmother fell in love with the tall, dark, and handsome Italian American.  He looked like Tyrone Power.
As you can see, my family is pretty open minded. 
My parents dealt with direct opposition,  not from family,  but from the world around them. They were married in the early 70s and the culture of America was not what it is now. They got either flat out denied apartments or evicted. They stayed together long enough to have a child.

I never thought about race really as a child. The first time it even entered my thoughts was when my step-father's mother bought all her granddaughters Barbie dolls. I don't remember my exact thoughts when I opened the gift, but I am pretty sure "Cool! A new Barbie" was the extent of it. She pulled me and my mother into another room and started to apologize that the store didn't have any black Barbies, would this one be ok? I literally had no idea what was going on. A Barbie is a Barbie. My mother was quiet for a moment then said it was fine.

That was the turning point. The damage was done.  Pretty much growing up with a family that looked like a photo negative of my complexion led to many "Are you adopted?" inquires.

I moved to North Carolina when I was 17 to go to Job Corps. Not my proudest achievement, I must admit.  The ratio of African American students to non-African American students was incredibly disproportionate.  I felt I surely had to fit in, I was color coded after all. Being from New England, I am pretty friendly, but not really outgoing. I am pretty guarded against strangers. Something about not seeing the sun for seven months a year makes us shy up here. I didn't fit in because the other students thought I was "stuck up" because I wasn't as outgoing as they were. If only they knew I have pretty bad anxiety.

I eventually came back up here to the frozen tundra. Almost immediately, I met a really cute guy and we started dating.  He was a former skin head, but for a black person I was pretty cool. We did not last.

My biggest issue up here is one that is heavily cliched by the media.  I am not going to rob your store. To the cashier at Homegoods, the heist is not your $3.99 glasses that you accused me of price tag switching on. To the cashier at Bath and Body Works, thank you, I no longer shop at the chain because of you. I do not plan on going to jail for scented hand sanitizer, there was no need to trail me around the store and randomly jump at me from behind displays. To every store ever, please stop following me around the store asking every 10 seconds if I need your help. No, I don't. I know my sizes, I know what I like and if you give me room to breath, I will make a purchase. I went shopping once with my younger brother and he started laughing after the 30th time in five minutes I was asked if I needed "help". He wanted to know why that was happening as he had never seen it before.  Either I have the money on me, or I am browsing.

I now have a child who I love dearly. Because of my mixed heritage, and his father being Puerto Rican, my son is significantly lighter skinned than me.  There is no reason to come up to us and ask me who his mother is. There is no reason for the Pediatrician to ask if I "watch" him.  It bothers me that my son will have to face the same trials I do and did. People assume my 64 year old mother is his mom because they are both olive skinned. When I get asked his ethnicity, I laugh a bit because he is everything. I hope with his generation, we can do away with some of the negativity regarding racial backgrounds in this country.

I have made my own "culture". I don't really like rap, well I like party rap. I actually really like Tori Amos and Regina Spektor. I like alternative, and 80's hits. I read, too. Mostly Dickens, not too many modern authors although I really like Jacqueline Winspear. I like antiques as well. Probably my favorite guilty pleasures are Royal Dalton and anything stamped occupied Japan. It bothers me when people assume I know what a Lil' Wayne is or Beyonce's new song. Pop music doesn't really appeal to me either. I am just not hip like that. I am really comfortable with who I am and the things I like. I don't think of myself as black, I think of myself mostly as just being me. If you get anything out of this, its mostly don't assume. Family comes in many different combinations, always has, always will.  People's likes are not based upon their backgrounds.  If you are curious, ask but don't ask insulting questions......You will find most people would rather clarify if they don't feel insulted or ashamed.