Growing up this was the number one question I got asked the most: Are you mixed?
As a young child I had no idea what this meant. I often responded yes but my older sister would quickly correct me in her older sister singsongy style, “no we’re not MARCI”. My sister’s response to me often left me think what was so bad about being mixed?
My mother is the lightest of her 7 siblings. Along with being fair she has freckles. These freckles my sister and I inherited from her along with her lighter skin. My mother is a daughter of a black man and black woman. I find it beautiful that my mother’s family is the epitome of how many different shades black people can be. She has brothers that are brown, dark brown, light brown. They are absolutely beautiful.
Growing up my mother’s father was a share-cropper in Tennessee. Many months out of the year the entire family would work the fields. For my mother and her siblings this meant missing school of course. The school they were allowed to go to, gave a allowance for being absent for all families during harvesting time. So while the white students drove by in their school bus shouting obscenities and throwing trash at them my uncles, aunt, and mother harvested cotton. At school my mother was made fun of by the other black students due to her fair complexion often sending her home in tears.
I share this as often times growing up in the black community it was often heard as a comment that being light skin was easier and better. ‘Light skin people will never know the struggles that a darker skin person goes through’.
I think it’s important to understand that growing up I was never black enough for the black people and too black for other races. There was no place for me. Being asked questions such as ‘are you mixed’, ‘what is your nationality’ or ‘what is your heritage’ became offensive as I got older. In my teenage years I found that this was a person’s way to measure my ‘blackness’. I was tired of proving that I was black or ‘black enough’. My sister and I began returning these questions with questions. Inventing answers that were so far from the truth that we thought people would have to be crazy to believe it. But they did believe it. Most of our high-school peers believed we were ‘light-skinned’ with freckles because we were from southern Africa. Further then South Africa 🙄. We had a southern accent because it was the south. It amazed us that people simply could not accept us being just black.
I learned quickly that the color of my skin though it is who I am it does not define me or determine me decisions. I can be light skin, not vote for Obama (and not regret it), speak properly, not wear weave, show off my naturally curly hair and still be just as black as the next dark skin natural haired beauty.
As an adult currently this is still the number question I am asked. My returning question is: why does it matter? Will my answer make me more or less of a human, a mother, a daughter or a sister. I refuse to allow my level of ‘blackness’ to be questioned because of the color of my skin. It’s amazing that this is mostly (not only) to my black community.
Yes both my parents, grandparents, and further back are black. They are all black.