‘I Didn’t Want to Be a Black Man’

‘I Didn’t Want to Be a Black Man’


Ben O’Keefe

A biracial man on why he came to accept his Black identity

My name is Ben O’Keefe and I am a “Halfrican American.” It’s a term that one of my fellow mixed-race friends, Adriana, and I have affectionately come to define ourselves by. It seems like such a fitting proclamation. It serves as an ode to both “halves” of my racial identity. But, that identify is one that has been a hard fought battle to discover.

Growing up I didn’t think about being Black—I didn’t think about being White either. Coming from a bi-racial family, I was simply raised to see an absence of color. My White mother taught me that “we are all just people” and refused to allow us to identify as “Black.” To my mother we were “chocolate.” My Black father was not around to raise me with any sense of our shared racial identity. In our predominately White community, I had very little exposure to my Black heritage, or the culture that one half of my body belonged to. Or did it belong to it? And more importantly: Did I want to belong to it?

As much as my mother longed for me to live in a world free of the barriers of race, a colorblind world was not the reality. We in fact live in a society in which race very much still fuels the subconscious bigotry of many. A country in which our Black President inspires some, but terrifies others. But still in my naivety, I continued to live my life undefined by the racial descriptions of our society.

My innocence was lost the first time that I noticed that I was being followed through a store…

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