My Experience of Being Transracial as a Biracial Woman

Transracial vs BiracialIf transracial was actually a “thing”, for all intents and purposes, I could be classified as just that.

I have identified as “white” for most of my life; and culturally, I am more white than stereotypical “Black American”.

(I differentiate between Black Americans and Black Canadians, because having lived in both countries, I have observed that there is a noticeable difference between being a U.S. Black and a Canadian Black.

I grew up with a white mother, in almost all white neighborhoods, my skin color is actually lighter than most white people I know; and all, I mean ALL of my friends growing up were white.

My black father was absent for most of my life, with the exception of Holidays and Summer vacation. As a result, I never had a sense of “blackness” instilled in me, and certainly no sense of “black pride”; as my highly intelligent father found being a black man in the U.S. painful, and at times unbearable.

For all intents and purposes, until about 15 years ago, I lived most of my life as a “white person”.

Except I am not. And the white people around me never let me forget it.

My early childhood started out wonderful, living in affluent, upper middle class neighborhoods, that were filled with mostly White, well educated people, and a gentle mix of East Indian, Asian, and a few Black people scattered here and there.

Race was not something I was really aware of until my parents got divorced, and we moved to a still middle class, but less affluent area.

This was when I first became aware that there was something terribly wrong with me. That I was not like the other children.

That I was an abomination… that I was “part Black.”

My first memory of having my illusion of whiteness destroyed, was when I was about 7 or 8 years old. 

I had a crush on a beautiful blue- eyed, blond boy named Gary.

I adored Gary. I thought he was sooo beautiful, that I told him when he died, I hoped they made a glass coffin in which he would be preserved; so that everyone could come admire his beauty until the end of time….like Snow White.

Gary apparently didn’t feel the same.

He told me that I was so fucking ugly, that when I died, he wanted to burn all that frizzy nigger hair off my head, and pour acid all over my ugly nigger face, so no one would ever have to hurt their eyes looking at me again.

The message he gave me in that moment, and which has continued to be reinforced throughout my life, is that my “blackness” was a disease, an infection so abhorrent, that it needed to be stamped out and destroyed entirely.

And because it was part of my RACE, my genetic code, there was no way of escaping it, and no way of becoming “undefiled” because of it.

Fast forward a few years. I am now 11 and in 6th grade, I moved to Brighton, Michigan, just down the street from the Grand Dragon of the KKK. The year is 1986.

I would get up at 5 am every morning, and spend at least 1.5 hours straightening my hair, attempting to destroy any evidence of the terrible sickness I had been told I had, which was simply the unfortunate experience of  being born with “black blood”.

But no matter how many toxic chemicals I poured on my head, no matter how many scalp burns I suffered from hot irons, there was simply no erasing the stain of my heritage, in the eyes of these upper middle class White people.

I went to middle school with the children of several Klan members, mixed in with your average, everyday white boys and girls. I walked home from school everyday, passing through a gauntlet of school busses, packed with these happy, healthy, well liked and accepted white children.

They, all of them, Klan children and “regular” children, took the opportunity of my passing to inform me of the numerous ways in which I would never be like them, never be “white”.

 “Nigger lips, Nigger Hair! Go home you ugly Nigger. You fake nigger, want to be nigger, nigger lipped white nigger”.

They hurled racial slurs at me, between gobs of spit. Again letting me know, that no matter how much I wanted to be, no matter how much I tried, I could never escape the stain of being “part black”.

Two years later, in 7th/8th grade. The year is 1988. A different upper middle class white neighborhood, with no know Klan members nearby. Just your normal, average, white neighborhood, similar to where so many of my current White friends, colleagues, associates grew up.

Walking home from school with my best friend, with several white boys following along behind us. (There were no black boys in any of the places I lived until high school.) Two of the boys in particular stand out in my mind: one of them I had a huge crush on, and the other would taunt me relentlessly with all of the things he would do to me, if he ever caught me alone.

“Don’t let me catch you alone nigger! You ugly, fake, half breed nigger. I will cut off your head and throw your ugly nigger body in a ditch.”

Fast forward two years later, in Plymouth Salem High School. I am in 10th grade. Walking down the halls everyday, passing by all the pretty white boys and hearing them say -“She’d be hot if she wasn’t Black. Too bad she’s black. Maybe if you cut off her head, you could fuck her”

(And dude…what’s the deal with people wanting to cut off my head! Cripes!)

Or same school, walking down the hall, and a different group of white boys spitting on me as I walked by, and calling me an “ugly nigger cow.

These are just a few examples of my experiences with white boys/men. I am not even going to touch upon my experiences with “pretty white girls”.

I have many, many, many, other examples of what it is like to have grown up as Biracial female in a White world.

None of these experiences in anyway informed me that it I could EVER be anything other than Black in their eyes.

I learned that “Blackness” was so vile to these white people, that it was akin to an unforgivable crime, and definitely not something they had any intention of “overlooking”.

And just like there is no escaping blackness, there is no escaping white privilege.  If you are born a pretty blue-eyed, blond girl in white in America, like Miss Rachel Dolezal, you can never, ever, ever, even begin to get a glimpse of what it is like to be a Black woman in America.

I do not care how many degrees you have, how many African studies classes you have taken – you don’t know, and further more, you have no RIGHT.

Being black in America is a right you earn. It is not a costume you get to put on, simply because you “identify” that way.

It is a lineage and culture that has been born out of violence & hatred, and has survived and triumphed in spite of it all.

It is a sense of self worth and dignity that MUST be born from the inside out, in spite of the vile hatred that has been spewed upon people of color every moment of their lives.

I learned that my blackness was something that the white people around me hated so much, they didn’t just try to “overlook” it, they wanted to stamp it out of existence.

And for most of my life, I did my best to accommodate them. My desire to be white was not a natural desire. It was born out of internalized racial hatred, and my need to survive in a world that told me blackness was a disease I needed to overcome.

To compare this experience to a pretty white woman who “feels black”…really?

My own racial self-acceptance has been hard won and hard earned. Sorry white folks, but you don’t get to take up that space too. You don’t get to “decide” to be black.

It is an experience you must LIVE from birth to death, with all of it’s heartache, beauty, glory, and ultimately-the reward of being part of a race of people who have continued to succeed and THRIVE in spite of the insane amount of hatred and brutality that we/they have had to endure.

So fuck your transracial bullshit #RachelDolezal. You have no right.

7 thoughts on “My Experience of Being Transracial as a Biracial Woman

  1. Devi, no one has the right to say they know what it is like to walk in anyone’s shoes. There is no possible way that a white person could know what it feels like to be hated, because of the color we were born. As a pretty white girl, I was raised by a bigoted father, who attempted to pass on his hate, not only for anyone of color or race other than caucasian, but people from different religious backgrounds as well. Your story made me cry. To feel the love that you are now, is an amazing testament for what you have overcome.

    As a white person, I feel terrible shame for the hate, violence and disrespect that people of color have had to endure. The more evolved we become, the more evident this disparity becomes. I see this same hatred within nations, eastern and western cultures.

    Hate is taught and is as life-threatening as cancer. Where I grew up, there was one black young man who attended my high school. Until that time, there were no black students in any of my schools. Lloyd became a well-respected medical doctor. In our school, he was treated with equal respect, because of our administration. They would not allow bullying or violence. If families would teach that our differences don’t matter, but what is inside that counts, our world would be a better place. Instead, like in my home, hatred is taught through example and beliefs. I thank you for sharing your journey with us in such an open way. Hearing experiences like these is the only way that people will recognize the scourge within (seeing others as different), rather than equal.

  2. Sounds like a nightmare.

    But far worst exist. Sorry : it’s just truth.

    Lucky you are, however, that your father was clever, and not Cleaver.

    Elridge Cleaver, founder of the Black Panthers – not of the Ku Klux Klan, please remember that – in his autobiography, Soul of Ice :
    « […] when I considered myself ready enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. […] Rape was an insurrectionary act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women… I felt I was getting revenge. From the site of the act of rape, consternation spread outwardly in concentric circles. I wanted to send waves of consternation throughout the white race. »

    He said he first raped black women “for practice” : as you’re either black and white, he would have twice as many reasons to rape you as any other woman.

    A Black woman from your father, a redhead freckled one by your mother, you lived among white people and you explain you discovered hatred and shame by them.

    What if you had lived among black people ?

  3. Wow.

    My parents are both Black, but are genetically diverse: I’ve been mistaken for Indian (india), Native American, Cuban, Filipino, Middle-Eastern, and various other type of ethnicity. I would seem to be of mixed heritage, but in America, I am just your plain old ordinary Black Man.

    I grew up in Northern California roughly the same time frame that you were moving about Devi. Racism was as abundant as you describe, just more typically Californian, meaning mellow, subtle, and institutionally omnipresent. I do recall one time in Elementary School where a group of kids attempted to bully me in a racist fashion, and my reaction was decidedly intolerant and violent. I respect you for your non-violent tolerance in dealing with such overt brutality.

    Rachel Dolezal.

    Identification does not imply being or living. The arrogance of assuming that identification implies both being and living while imposing that assumption on others epitomizes white privilege and is beyond insulting. It is identifying with being exploited while being and living the role of the exploiter.

    Being bi-cultural within the black community in the US is not necessarily easy. Black folks are human too and can exhibit their own brand of prejudiced. Being bi-cultural and black one can find oneself relating to both cultures at times, but at other times to neither, especially when the combination of cultures dictates a way of being that is flat out unfamiliar. The imprint of finding your way through that minefield as a child changes how you think, who you are, and how you live in a way that is different from those in the black community who did not have that experience. A nickname that a Cousin of mine had when she was younger that she absolutely detested, as she was raised in a predominantly black community, was “White Girl” due to her Hair and Complexion. Sometimes it was a compliment, sometimes it was a pejorative, and sometimes it was both.

    I commend you for your patience and restraint in explaining your position on this Devi.

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