The Beauty of Biraciality

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


What is it like to be a biracial teen? A mother's perspective...

Submitted: April 16, 2011

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Submitted: April 16, 2011

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My daughter was biracial and although she was proud of her African American heritage, she felt she didnt "belong" anywhere. When I was pregnant, I worried very little about the prejudice or bias she might encounter because she was half-black; it seemed to me in the 20th century in America, she would simply be accepted by both whites or blacks. In my world-view, everybody has a place in America, regardless of their skin color or heritage. As I sit here reflecting back to my naive, simplistic understanding of what it would mean for her to be biracial, I admit now that my understanding was narrow and limited. Her experience being a biracial child was not simple but complex, even complicated. And although she was not an outcast to either ethnic group, neither did she feel completely included by either of group. She lived in the "midlands;" neither here nor there. She was not a part of either group; not identified completely with the whites, nor able to totally relate to the blacks. She was a unique amalgamation; a solitary individual. And sometimes, she explained, it got lonely. So lonely that in 2013 my beautiful and smart fifteen year old took her own life.

I remember asking her if she related to the black youth culture of hip-hop fashion, rap music and slang and she replied, "Sort of." When I asked if she "fit in" with the white girls, she admited with a sigh that she didnt, with her wide nose and challenging black hair. Where does a teenager who belongs to two ethnic groups, land? She admited feeling misunderstood by both groups of kids...a lot. She repeated the statement that she was, "just me" and "unique"...a lot. She struggled at 13 to accept herself. But what teenage girl doesnt? Girls of this age typically struggle with poor self-image. They see themselves as too fat or too thin, too ugly or too curvy, too shy or too loud, too poor...but never too rich! Yet even the "rich girls" find something to object to about themselves, because they are all in a similar difficult metamorphosis called growing up. They are experiencing inner turmoil. And as the caterpillar struggling within the cocoon, they wrestle with themselves until they realize one day that being whoever they are is divinely perfect. Then they take wing, and fly. But my biracial teenager had a doubly hard job of it because she was defying all racial stereotypes by simply being who she was.
The one thing I did do regularily as a parent was to assure her that she was beautiful and perfect, and that it's okay to be "different." Yet I knew in my heart it would be years and years before she'd be able to truly embrace and accept her individuality, and to express her love of it, if she ever could.

The world can be a confusing and difficult place if you don't "fit in" with mainstream culture's idea of beauty. In the final analysis, I hoped and believed her ethnic challenges would make her a stronger person. It is said: "Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger" (Neitsche). Being in-between in a white and black world only adds to the beauty; diversity never detracts. Different is interesting and noteworthy, and someday I hoped that is what she would be. It wasnt until Moriyah was gone that I realized how big an issue her biraciality had played in her childhood depression. Not an issue for me or my family, but for her in school. High School demands that you be a white cheerleader or football star if you're going to be popular. She wasnt that-she was biracial and too smart, with an exotic kind of beauty. 

Some people would conclude that the "races" should not intermarry because of this issue. My answer to that is: there is only one "race," the human race. And it is not the innocent child that needs to change but the way that society thinks that needs to change. Dialectical thinking is black or white thinking: it is stuck in one world or the other, unable to see the beauty of the in-between. My own daughter got caught in the riptide of dialectical thinking, and she judged herself too harshly because of it. 

Now that I see clearly the pain she dealt with because she was biracial, I'd give anything to go back and do things differently as a parent. I wish I had spent more time discussing racial issues and the messages she was getting from the media. I wish I had taken the issue of race more seriously. But because I am white, I had white priviledge and wasnt even aware of the discrimination she faced on a daily basis just because of the color of her skin. I wish I could go back and do a whole lot of things differently...but dont we all.


© Copyright 2018 Devi Nina Bingham. All rights reserved.

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