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My Weird Cousins

A common bond that you will often find between many mixed race people of a certain age is our sense of being between worlds. Of course every circumstance is unique and my experience is anecdotal; there isn’t a Mixed Race Cultural Centre where we can share stories and experiences (yet!). But having lived in the United States and Canada but most importantly, being a person who lives in this skin every single second of every single day, I have come to a personal conclusion based on my opinion only. I believe that there are three classifications of feelings about our mixed race.

WHITE IDENTIFYING/COLOR SHAME: There was definitely a period in my life where I wanted to be that. I wanted to hang with the white kids, because they were cool. I hated my nose. There was a good month or so where I would squeeze my nose with pliers in the hope of making it smaller, “whiter”, less Filipino. I was about eight or nine at this time. I don’t remember the particular comment that inspired this bout of self-loathing, but I remember that it hurt. Rejecting your “otherness” and trying to replace it with something else doesn’t help your self-worth.

CULTURE PRIDE: You are folks I am jealous of. You are beautiful people that have that hint of “je ne sais quoi” and everyone always asks you “what’s your background” (annoying, right?). The genetic lottery has given you that perma-sun kissed look and you’ve immersed yourself in the “other” culture.  You even speak the language a bit and no one is suspicious of your motivations for showing up at a cultural event. You belong, you really do. Myself and people like me envy you, we really do.

THE REST OF US: I feel like this is most of us, the “Inbetweeners”. Whether it be through a desire for one parent to not lose the “other” culture, our fairer/darker skin notwithstanding; or that despite taunting and teasing from kids on either side of our parts, we embrace our disparity and differences and still remain at a loss: should we hyphenate all of it? Do we explain to the white person making racist comments about “Asians” that they are talking about our mother or father?  We’ve seen or heard racism casually thrown at our parents for their racial and cultural transgression from both sides of the family. We ourselves make comments that make people who don’t know our backgrounds uncomfortable from time to time because we can. We show up to cultural theatre, art, music events and feel both at home and uncomfortable with having to justify our right and need to be in that space again and again, while at the same time understanding the dis/advantage that our fairness/darkness of skin affords us in our work and personal lives.

If this seems confusing to you, you would be correct. It is confusing, wonderful, and all the adjectives that make up any life. We are almost always the weird cousins at the family reunions and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5 thoughts on “My Weird Cousins

  • The funny thing is, all of this was/is further confused by how other people classify us.  Not only did I have to wrangle with our own self image and self identity, others loved to put their classifications upon us, whether they were well intended or not.  Great post:)

  • ahillgiles

    I have never had someone to explain exactly how I have felt and continue to feel. About two weeks ago I experienced an incident were I wanted to scream, and cry all at the same time. I was at store in the town I grew up in and continue to work; stopped a local gas station and a group of white men walked past me while I was pumping gas looked at me then in my vehicle at my son (15 yrs old with head phones on, thank God) continued on and made the comment sure is a lot of redbones in this area. I felt a sudden shame to be in my own skin. I am of mixed race white, black and Cherokee so I have a very light complexion and though I married a darker complexion man my son took on my complexion and his features are finer than mine. I have always tryed to teach him to be proud of everything he is so that he would never feel the way that I did when younger never feeling like you fit in and wanting to so badly. Thank you for letting me know that I am not alone in feeling the things we do sometimes that we feel others just don’t or won’t understand.

  • hi, though i’m not mixed race myself i have three grown mixed race daughters who never seem to have any problems about their identity. they’re strong women with good self esteem who celebrate all their heritages. though they’re often asked about their ethnicity they totally don’t care what other’s think about it. why should they care about some ignorant or racist comments from anyone. you didn’t ask me but if you did i would tell you to keep your head up high and don’t accept racism or ignorance from anyone. the people who are minding your business are the ones that should be ashamed that they have no manners and weren’t taught properly by their parents

  • I’m in the 3rd category. I’m black/white but look more or less white. I get crap from both whites and blacks about how I talk and the music I listen to. I was once reprimanded for listening to racist music getting whites to kill blacks, I was listening to Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover. Or I get labeled a whigger or cool for a white boy. I’ve gotten jumped for acting black by a couple of white kids, I’ve been jumped for being white by black kids.
    Sometimes I feel like I can’t catch a break. On a lighter note I mentioned to a coworker my dad had a jheri curl and he said he’d never seen a white guy with a curl, I told I too have never seen a white guy with a curl besides Weird Al. He was confused for awhile.

    • EJ King a white guy jewish type fro is called a ‘heebfro’

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