When I was in the 7th grade, Keith Brooks walked up to me and said "You know, according to Cosmopolitan, due to your mixed race...you're socially unacceptable to 75% of America."
My reply was simply, "That's ok. You're socially unacceptable to 100% of America."
The fact that 3 years later while at an all boys Catholic School, Keith came out of the closet, not only made the Cosmo thing a lot more clear but also on some level made his comments to me strangely ironic (ironic in the way Gay people, especially at this time, were portrayed and commented on in the media, and not ironic in a way that gives any credence to this Cosmo poll in any fashion in how people are "socially acceptable").
There was some ooh and ahhing after I replied with this retort and I still fashion it as the finest comeback I will ever have in my life.
But it's stuck with me. My own mother, bless her heart, would sometimes put thoughts in my head (a direct result of the hatred and bigotry she experienced in her relationship with my father, I'm sure) where when a girl would break up with me it could possibly be related to my racial heritage.
It's a joke I've sometimes brushed off, and while it's been far from the strongest of my insecurities about who I am, where I come from, and my battles with relationships with girls over the years, it's still always sort of stuck there. Like a piece of stick in a shoe that's not hurting you, but may cause a blister if its there for too much longer.
Lots of people assumed when Obama was elected that "I must be REALLY happy about that."
Which I was, it's true. I never thought I would see anything like that in my lifetime. But what became clear to me while watching all the hub bub about racial issues in the country and things of that like is that, while he is the first and only bi-racial president our country has had, it's still not the same. The arguments that were had over his hertiage where overshadowed by me by the fact that to me, in appearance, while his family was comprised similarly of mine (white mother raised, black father who left at an early age) appearance ais everything. And while I wanted to identify with Obama, I couldn't because at the end of the day, I saw him as he appeared, as a black man.
While I've tended to identify myself as Black my entire life, I haven't always been 100% certain that that's what my "classification" should be or that I have ever fully identified myself in this way.
In the classic film Soul Man, towards the end of the movie, James Earl Jone's character says to C. Thomas Howell something to the effetc that "Now you know what it's like to be black." C. Thomas Howell replies with something like, "No I don't. I could always change back." For all the controversy caused when this movie came out, it's m,essage can be distilled down to this simple though, and one I wish people would really understand and realize when trying to "know how it feels".
A couple of years ago, Vertigo released an Original Graphic Novel called "Incognegro" by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece. In it, a man is of a bi-racial background and as such "passes" for white to help to infiltrate and dismantle the KKK and white supremacy movements that arose in the south by his job as a journalist. It's probably the first and only thing in my years on this earth that has spoken to, about and with me as deeply as it did. Meeting Mat Johnson at the NYCC a few months later was one of the treasures of my life, because unlike Obama, Mr. Johnson wrote and talked about things that I had expereinced and thought my whole life.
My suburban upbringing did not leave much for others to be able to identify about how I felt. And even visting my Dad, there was still a half of me he wouldn't and couldn't understand (depsite his mariages to Caucasian women) just like there was a side to me my mother could never really understand or idnetify with me, depsite the hatred and bigotry she expereinced growing up in the 70's and 80's in a bi-racial relationship and having a bi-racial child.
I've read articles of people like myself, who can't understand the "political correctness" of calling yourself half-something. But realy, that's because they can easily pass, or identify, through their physical characteristics, with people who are one race or another. I've always felt split down the middle. My hair, not tight and curly enough to be "black" but straight enough, especially short, to pass as any number of races. (As my high school prom dates grandmother would itinmate when describing me as a nice Italian Boy ..most lkely due to my short straight hair and my olive comlexion).
My skin, not dark enough to be black, just tan enough to be confused for Hispanic (no matter how many people who walk up to me thinking I speak Spanish fluently only to be shocked....really shocke...when I say I'm not even hispanic_) and certainly not close to white enough to be confused for Caucasian.) Tell me someone who has been mistaken for Greek, Italian, Spanish, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and Smaoan, but has not history of any of those in his lineage wouldn't go through life thinking, "People don't understand."
We are who we are, and our features shouldn't define us, but in a way they do. Because impression is definiton to a certain extent. I don't know my fathers side of the family really, I do know my mothers, and for years I had no idea what I was really (beyond myself).
So back the those seeds of doubt and insecurity planted in my head all those years ago. You know, the scratching? I know many of my exes, I know what I am had nothing to do with the ending of any of our relationships, I'm sure many of mine and their insecurities led to that.
But sometimes, just sometimes, I have to wonder if to a certain extent I'm not comfortable about the core of who I am and where I come from at times, how can anybody else be.
So to all the bi-racial kids, who can pass and never thought about what they are, or how to identify themselves, consider yourselves lucky. Genetics where kind to you.
For me, now and always, I've got no problem being half anything.