The Ups and Downs of “Picking a Side”
With being biracial or multiracial comes the sometimes uncomfortable pressure to “pick a side.” Growing up, I found this concept really odd. As actress Michelle Hurd once put it, “I am created of my mother and my father and so it feels odd for me to choose.”
I do get the impression that most people could care less about hearing your story and what it “means” to be who you are and I get it. We all have our own stories to deal with and to work through and I can’t expect everyone to be interested enough to learn more about that side of me.
Therefore, instead of truly listening to each other and learning from each other, without any type of judgement, we quicker dismiss the grey areas of someone’s identity and paint them as we simply see them. Fair enough.
The only time this truly stings is when it seems laughable to people when you explain a certain situation from your “mixed” perspective, i.e. a perspective between the two and/or more.
Sure, I look more like Group A and can therefore never really identify with Group B as well as I can with the other, it doesn’t mean that my experiences and understanding of both groups is any less valuable or should be an excuse for mockery.
However, I would definitely like to highlight that there are some pros and cons to “picking” just one side of your very complex racial and socio-cultural identity.
I will state very honestly that as a person of mixed black and white heritage, I feel most empowered and at peace when I almost only embrace my black or “African” heritage. When I watch interviews and read up on the history and everything that has happened within Africa as well as within the African diaspora, I can’t help but feel a warm sense of self and a fiery passion that inspires me to want to stand up against ignorance and prejudice. It’s easy to then, point a finger and view things as a “we vs. them” scenario, however, through examining your own identity and in this instance for me personally, it is always a wake up call that I need to check myself and truly define the person I want to be in this world. The ignorance and prejudice can often come from within and that’s where the first leg of the battle begins.
Now as it relates to the downside of just “embracing on side”, on occasion I find myself not being able to identify with every single aspect of the “true black” experience and I have had experience with people questioning “how black I was,” which often made me question everything I thought I was now able to be and believe in. There are certain conversations that you will not be able to fully engage in on either side, but admittedly it’s fulfilling to be able to take part where you know your voice will have some weight.
By just picking one side, you often turn off the light to a certain aspect of your identity and by doing so, admit that there’s something wrong with just being who you truly are. I always say, “what you are, doesn’t have to define who you are” and that’s definitely true – do not let societal expectations, stereotypes or even your own circumstances define the type of person you are.
It’s interesting that we live in a world where your race, that is the colour of your skin and your ethnic origin play such an integral role in the way we are treated and perceived. “You gotta take the good with the bad.” At the end of the day, the journey to self-discovery is never ending – mixed or not and I think that is part of the beauty of being alive and exploring this diverse planet of ours.
So go out, explore and learn from each experience! #MixedRemixed
Written by Theresia “Terri” Rogers