By Monique Williams
In preschool, I was once asked to draw a picture of myself. As my peers went ahead picking up the “skin color” crayon as they called it, I sat there bewildered. I knew that color did not look like my skin, so I thought about it some more. My mom is white and my dad is black, so I turned to my friend, more telling her than asking, and said, “black and white make brown.” She looked at me as if I was insane and said, “they make gray.” I was certain she was wrong and had to see for myself. So I took the black crayon and mixed it with the white crayon and was completely shocked when I realized I was wrong. I immediately asked myself, “Why am I brown then? Why are people different colors? Why is there a skin color for them and not me?”
That moment was the first time that I had been asked to truly look at myself. Naturally, as a human, when you look at yourself you feel the immediate need to compare and that is exactly what I did. I looked at all the other kids around me; I looked at their skin and knew I was different.
As a mixed person, there is a moment in your life when you realize your difference. And for the rest of your life, there are these reminders that you’re different.
We get things like..
“You’re an Oreo.”
“You’re not really [insert ethnicity]."
“You must be adopted!”
“Oh but you’re really [insert ethnicity]."
This is not a tale of woes. I am not contributing to the story of the poor light skin mixed girl who can’t acknowledge her privileges. This isn’t a “poor me” exploit, that mixed women have somehow been labeled as crusading. It is important to me and for all other mixed individuals to acknowledge the fact that we hold on to these stories and let them make us feel ostracized.
Self-identity, self-value, and how we relate to the world are all created on the basis of solid relationships with community. As a young individual, the first community we have is our family. If one is not able to properly see themselves in the community around them, their ability to relate to the world is greatly affected, thus catalyzing the decline of one’s self -identity and self-value.
To put it in general terms, if you take a little black girl and put her in a family that reinforces that black women are beautiful, and black women are powerful then she will grow up to believe those things. Instead, if you take a little black girl and put her in a white family that does not reinforce those same ideas, she will grow up not knowing that those ideas are true.
As mixed people, we spend our whole life desperately wanting to fit in, desperately wanting to get rid of our difference. But what if I told you that your difference is your blessing. What if I told you that your difference can define your destiny. If we took all of the energy we use trying to fit into a societal mold, and use it to glorify and magnify our differences, we would finally step into our power. This perspective shift would allow us to authentically live in our purpose.
Your difference is what makes you unique. It’s your story. Your difference gives you your own unique perspective. Mixed people give this world it’s own unique perspective. Maybe in a world of stark racial division, we give this world a bridge. Maybe in a world of black & white, we are the melting pot of gray.