This is a really great essay by Celeste Headlee about her multiracial family.
My grandfather is William Grant Still, the “Dean of African-American composers.” His skin was the color of maple syrup. Mine is the color of café au lait. My grandfather suffered countless indignities and injustices because of his color. I remember them still, almost viscerally. They still feel personal to me.
When he was going to Oberlin College to accept an honorary degree, he drove from Los Angeles with his family. He couldn’t stay at the white hotels because he was black; he couldn’t say at the black hotels because his wife was white. So he drove 2,300 miles without stopping. In photos of the event, he’s stooping; he looks exhausted. I’ve heard that story dozens of times, and yet, my cheeks feel hot thinking about it even now. It still makes me angry.
My grandparents had to get married in Tijuana because their marriage was illegal in the US. That’s personal. He had to build a six-foot fence around his home to protect my mother and her brother from violence. It was the 1940s and people were dragging mixed-race families out of their beds, beating them, sometimes setting their homes on fire. I look at my mother sometimes and think about how lucky I am.
I have the same amount of black ancestry as Sally Hemings, slave to Thomas Jefferson and mother to six of his children. (Side note: three of those children lived their adult lives as white. They passed.)”
Read the rest of the essay here.