6 things I wish people understood about being biracial

6 things I wish people understood about being biracial


Jenée Desmond-Harris, Race, Law, and Politics Reporter

According to the results of a DNA test I took recently, my ancestors on my father’s side are mostly from West Africa (via Arkansas), and the ones on my mom’s side come from Europe. When strangers inquire about my racial background, I tend to try to de-escalate their interest. I say things like, “I’m just your run-of-the-mill mixed person with a white mom and a black dad.” In other words: nothing super exotic. Nothing to see here.

Why am I so dismissive? I’m a little self-conscious about engaging in excessive navel-gazing regarding my racial identity. It hasn’t been particularly difficult for me to manage. If anything, it may have made life easier for me and meant I’ve encountered less racism than people who have two parents who identify as black. I definitely don’t consider myself a “tragic mulatto.”

And with 9 million Americans selecting more than one race on the last Census — not to mention a president who has a white mother and a black father — it’s hard to argue that being “mixed,” “multiracial,” or “mulatto” (I’ve been called all of those) in 2015 is really all that unusual.

But I can’t deny that as long as race and racism are hot topics in our culture, biracial and multiracial people will continue to be a source of curiosity and fascination. Confession: even I find myself looking a little longer at mixed-race families on the streets of Washington, DC, craning my head to see which parent the children resemble most and wondering how they’ll see themselves. As a writer, I’ve been amazed by the way articles about interracial couples, families, or biracial children intrigue readers every single time. My guess is that it’s because these stories provide fodder for people to grapple with the nuances of their own identities and push the limits of racial categories, which is itself sort of fascinating.

So there’s nothing wrong with the continued curiosity about the experience of biracial people — whether their parents identify as black and white or some other combination society sees as interesting — but there are a few things I’d like people to know about those of us who are living it…

Read the entire article here.

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