Hey, everyone! I’m Helen, one of the newest guest bloggers on the Mixed/Remixed team. I live in gritty New York City, in the borough of the Bronx…one of the last places to be touched by the city’s relentless waves of gentrification. I have a huge and sunny room in the cozy neighborhood of University Heights, with picture windows gently framed by gauzy pale pink curtains and an inky-black dresser covered with crystals, head wraps, and prayer beads. I am a psychology student, spiritual practitioner and author who is working on her third book. And I am ecstatically biracial—African American (Igbo and Yoruba Nigerian, as well as Aztec Mexican), Czech and Italian.
I thought that, for my first guest post, I might break the ice by introducing you to an oldie-but-goodie article floating around on the Huffington Post. On September 21, 2015, the Huffington Post published a blog article called “What It’s Like to Be Multiracial in a Black and White World,” written by a mom named Danielle Campoamor. The article talks intimately about Danielle’s experience growing up as the child of two differently-born parents—her father is Puerto Rican, her mother Norwegian. I, for one, instantly identified with many of Danielle’s experiences, and found it so satisfying to hear her speak frankly about them.
Multiracial in a Black and White World
Danielle talks about what it was like to grow up bicultural as well as biracial, feeling the richness of being able to speak two different kinds of languages and eat two different kinds of food. She also shares what it was like to feel like an outsider in her family because of her coloring, which was different from most of her family’s. Finally—and this is where she really got me—she talks about never being accepted by other Latinos, who felt she was a privileged brat because she looked white and had different cultural experiences—she dressed differently, spoke differently, and listened to different music than the other kids.
Thoughts on the Article
Wow. That’s basically been the story of my life. I actually grew up in New York City, in the Times Square area. I went to neighborhood public schools and then to elite private schools on scholarship, but I never felt like I belonged in either environment. Race was a constant theme throughout those years, as I desperately tried to make my way socially in environments which refused to accept me as I was—the child of differently-born Buddhist hippie types, a fan of grunge music and fashion, abstract poetry and activism, spicy food, and spirituality.
I was consistently pressured to conform to a more culturally-acceptable stereotype of what black was, even as the black kids in my environment scorned and rejected me for “not being black enough.”
It didn’t help that I landed on the streets shortly after my graduation from high school, and have struggled to escape them ever since. The streets are not kind to people experiencing racial identity crises, especially when they’re very conspicuously biracial, as I am. I have been consistently bullied during my time in this system, for the way I speak (like a “white girl”), the way I dress (either in corporate casual or hippie garb), and the way I think (I currently identify with both radical and conservative political views). It has been such a struggle for me to stay true to how I feel in the face of a system that says that the very reality of who I am is a mistake, almost a thought crime.
My activism basically keeps me alive. I look forward to sharing it with you! 🙂 See you next time.
—Helen O’Neil is a psychology student, spiritual practitioner and freelance writer living in New York City. She is exuberantly biracial (Igbo and Yoruba Nigerian, Aztec Mexican, Czech and Italian) and a devout metaphysician. She sews her own clothing, adheres to a vegan diet, and is devoted to a healing lifestyle. Helen overcame an excruciating childhood of homelessness and abuse and an adulthood spent in the shelter system to earn a college degree, and is now building a freelance writing career. http://bronxwarriorpriestess.wordpress.com Twitter: BxWarrPriestess
Join us for the largest gathering of multiracial and mixed-race families and people in June 2017 for the 4th Annual Mixed Remixed Festival.