Biracial Black Woman

Born in the 70’s to a Black Woman and White man, I was the bridge that brought hatred together.

Raised to be Black, after the age of 7 when my father left.

Black family, Black neighborhood, mostly Black friends, Black church, my only touch of Whiteness was from Summers and holidays with my Paternal Grandparents. Plus the occasional visits with my father that diminished over the years.

Never understood the constant stares directed towards the Brown Black Woman and her Pale-skinned daughter. “You’re Black,” is what my family told me.

A Black male relative told me for years, “You Black! You a strong Black Woman!”

Even as a teenager, I told my Grandmother of an incident, I can’t recall the details at this moment. Her response, “Do you think it was because you’re Black?” “I don’t know,” I responded.

Got my long curls straightened, like all the other Black girls. That’s when the names increased.

As I grew, being called a “White girl,” was foreign other than cousins teasing me in childhood. I didn’t pick up on it. “I’m Black!” was my response.

In my early 20’s, I took a college course entitled, “Melanin and the Experience of Color.” I learned that as a lighter complexioned woman, I had privilege. Shocking!

My first thought, “How am I going to use this to benefit my people?” My people!

From then on I challenged. I already called out racist statement from racist Asian and White co-workers.

I challenged men and women who praised “mixed babies.”

I challenged men who felt they were complimenting me, “Yeah, I think mixed women are more beautiful.”

To the last one I said, “All Black Women are beautiful!” That didn’t last. He ended up calling me an “Angry Black Woman.”

I challenged till I grew tired of challenging. But, when I think of the challenges my more Melanated brothers and sister live with on a daily basis, I can’t take the privilege of stepping back. I won’t take that privilege.

That’s why when a person told me I had no business in the Black Lives Matter movement, my heart stung with a deep, painful ache. The conversation actually started with, “Biracial people don’t belong in the Black Lives Matter movement.” I took a stand. I’ve always taken a stand for my more Melanated Brothers and Sisters, even when they didn’t take a stand for me.

Truthfully, in many areas I can pass for White. I’ve been told my life would’ve been easier. “Easier for whom?” A White life for me is a soulless life, It’s not who I am at my core. I wouldn’t know how, it’s not my upbringing.

Hot water cornbread mornings. Black Grandmothers and Aunties, “Baby, come on ova here and bring…” whatever it is they needed me to bring.

Saturday mornings in the Fillmore with Pinesol, bleach, a scrub brush and Gladys Night and the Pips blasting on the record player. I can still hear “Midnight Train to Georgia” in my head.

Besides, Southern Grandmothers know. They look at me and know my Blackness. I’ve always loved that.

As the years have passed, my identity has shifted. When I reached my 4th decade on this planet, I realized as “Black” as I am, there is another part.

My White Grandmother’s hugs. My White Grandfather teaching me how to Waltz when I was 12. The stability they offered when the rest of my life seemed crazy. Their 74-and-a-half year marriage. My Grandfather, at 88, slowly kneeling down to play cars with my Black son, who was 7 at the time.

I watch as my Grandmother slips a $10 bill in my Son’s hand, like she used to do me. I watch as my Grandfather wakes up from a random nap and pulls my Son over to the antique cabinet as he tells him about every single piece. I listen to my Grandfather and my Son talk about World War II.

While my Blackness pours from my inside every moment, the Whiteness stares me in the face whenever I look in the mirror. I can’t deny one more than the other.

It’s true, I do identify more as a Black Woman. I have to acknowledge that I cannot own the full Black experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been followed around a store. When I went up to pay, the clerk asked me “Are you Black?”

Then there was the day an older Southern White woman leaned in and whispered in my ear, “Ya colored, ain’t ya?” To which I loudly replied, “Yeah, I’m Black!” She jumped back in shock.

But the fact is, in the past when I’ve gotten pulled over, the cops have written “Wte” under race every time. EVERY time!

To many in the outside world I’m White. To others I’m Black. Fitting in to one or the other depends on others perceptions, not my experience. I belong to me.

It was in my own inner belonging that decided to call myself a Biracial Black Woman. I leaned into the term quite easily. A four decade long internal battle to belong to one, re-emerged as a love for the combination that created me.

I can’t say I’ve had this profound, Utopian revelation that’s solved all the identity problems that dominated half my life. I honestly still identify as a Black Woman. However, being a Biracial Black Woman feels complete. It’s what I write on the line when I check “other.”

 

Originally Published September 8, 2020 on Medium

 

Journey to Cape Verde: An Unknown History

When I first saw, “Your results are ready” in my email inbox, my heart felt an openness, an excitement that was unfamiliar. It was about 4:40am in October 2018, and I said to wait. Then I signed on and read that my highest percentage of ancestry came from Cabo Verde. Of my 34% African Ancestry, 25% of my DNA stems from the islands directly off the West African Coast.

What was Cabo Verde? I asked myself. I looked it up on Google and said, “We’re from Cape Verde!!!” I smiled. I constructed a text to a long time “Sister Friend” who wore her Cape Verdean Ancestry with a loud pride that I always secretly admired, and felt an affinity.

Since it was 5am I wrote the text and I decided to wait for a decent hour before sending. I laid in bed, and checked the “University of Google” about everything I could find regarding this island that I’d only known through the stories of two women I’ve known for years.

I sent the text to my friend and she immediately responded. “I’ve been up! Call me!” We chatted and she told me, “I told your brother years ago that you all were Cape Verdean but you’re mother said no.” We talked for hours it seemed, but after an hour we ended the conversation with her calling me “Cousin.” I laughed. “Cousin!” A term I grew up with regularly as we had a large family, but not within this particular context.

After a few months of me telling myself and others I would research relatives, I finally opened my results and began looking at people. I looked at a particular picture of a beautiful Elder who my heart said to contact first because she lived in the same city as I. I looked at her birthdate and thought, “It’s possible she’s still here.” I sent a email to her, and then another “DNA relative.” I wanted to go down the whole list but I had to get back to work.

After an hour I checked my email and I got a response from the Elder’s Granddaughter that her Grandmother had passed. But she gave me her number. My heart opened more.

I waited a couple hours then called. Our conversation answered so many questions that have led to even more questions , my own deep thirst to know more.

As I ate dinner with my son I kept repeating, “Honey I’m just so excited!” as I repeatedly looked at my phone to see what other good news my newly discovered relative would bring.

Now I ask where is our direct Cape Verdean Lineage? Was it from my Maternal Grandmothers line, she is the one I feel most close from that side. Or is it my Maternal Grandfather, the one we never knew. Who was this mysterious man people said may have been Puerto Rican. With each passing moment, my heart opens a bit more. With so many of the Relatives I grew up with passing, I felt a strong sense of new growth, more family out there. It could be people I’ve known and loved for years.

I just discovered a Cape Verdean group and saw that a long time friend of mine asked a question about research. We lost touch recently, only sending an occasional email. I messaged her and informed her that I also have Cape Verdean Ancestry. She responded with an excitement that I could feel in her message, “Call me!” I love this, “call me,” that I’ve gotten from my newly found family.

This is the year of “The of the Return*.”The 400th anniversary of when our Ancestors were enslaved and brought to Turtle Island, aka The US. I’m not sure if that’s how my Cape Verdean Ancestors came here or not. I pray I can discover as much about this previously lost, and happily newly found connection.

As I lay in bed, typing on my phone at 6am I am moved to tears. I reflect on all those years that felt like I never fit in, have been replaced with a sense of belonging to Cape Verde ❤️

*The Year of the Return” is where the Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo officially welcomed the descendants of formerly enslaved African people back to Africa.

Photo by Alex Paganelli on Unsplash

Originally Published October 23, 2019 on Medium.

 

I Asked My Son to Not Brush His Hair in Public

Originally Published September 4, 2019 on Medium.

 

He Folds Her Laundry

Not too long ago, I entered an interesting shared living situation. She had a boyfriend, which I thought was nice. He clearly “adored” her, very attentive. He paid for their meals, helped out with her child, took them places, etc. It was everything I thought I wanted in a man.

She had a temper. On the surface, she seemed nice. However, if something did not go her way, she would yell and scream. She seemed to always be yelling, at her child, and at her man. Whether in person or on the phone. There was always a reason for her to yell, especially at her man. It seemed that nothing he did was good enough. I remember an incident when she stood over him as he sat in a chair, and she kept correcting him as if he were a child. I felt bad for him, but I got tired of it, tired of seeing her yell and scream. At the tail end of my time there, she began taking her episodes out on me.

She confessed that she didn’t think she really loved him. He was helpful with her child, helped financially, and she hated folding laundry. She would wash and dry, then pile everything on the couch. No one could sit on the couch as there were loads of clean laundry on it. When he came over, he would promptly go to the couch, fold the laundry and either watch the television, or chat.

I often thought, “He’s a wimp.” I would think, “There’s no way I could ever date a guy like that. Someone who allowed a woman to walk all over him.” These thoughts went on for a couple of months, then one day when she was yelling and screaming at him, I looked within and thought, “He’s not a wimp, he’s being abused.” I now saw the signs very clearly; the signs I saw in myself when I was wrapped in the clutches of someone with narcissistic tendencies. Those days when as hard as I tried, I could not untangle myself from the manipulative words, the yelling and screaming. It had been years since I escaped, but I looked at this man and saw someone who, in my eyes, was being completely manipulated.

I was very aware that I did not know what was going on when I was not around. I have no idea what he could have been saying or doing to her when they were alone. What I do know is what I saw when they were around me. Her yelling, screaming, berating and belittling everyone in her path.

The last episode I witnessed between them was a harsh one that lasted a couple of weeks. She yelled at him on the phone. She yelled at him in person. She sat with him and lectured him for what seemed like hours. Then, as their weekend trip approached, she was nice, smiled a lot and was very attentive.

They went away for the weekend. At the end of the weekend, I saw a text come through my phone at 6 am. The text read to call right away. I reluctantly called and she whispered that there was an emergency. He did something mean, so terrible in front of the other guests that she had to get out of there. She wanted me to order an Uber to take her to the airport. Unfortunately, several obstacles kept me from ordering the car and synchronizing her departure. I tried to tell her what happened but she wouldn’t hear anything, she had to get out of there.

They arrived home exhausted 24 hours later. She briefly explained the journey. Someone bought her a train ticket, but she wanted to fly. She got someone to buy her a plane ticket and she went to the airport, but it was the wrong day. She had to stay at a “sleezy” motel. She actually texted me pictures of how she barricaded the door. She wanted to tell me the full story, but she decided to rest first. I did not care to hear the story. Something inside of me said she started something and was trying to manipulate the situation. She did tell me she was going to leave him for good. All I could say to her was that the back and forth was teaching her child about relationships. I left it at that.

After that weekend she made no mention of him or the situation. Within a week she was seeing another man, one for whom she professed her love. For a full week the new man was all she could talk about. I noticed that after a couple of their overnights together he started making excuses to not pick her up; I thought that he was just in it for a few quickies. I didn’t say anything to her, however. That’s when she started to direct her anger at me. She frequently walked past me, breathed heavy signs, and slammed pots. She would walk out of the room and text message what she thought I was doing wrong. I thought this was nonsense, and I planned my path out of there.

In the two weeks after that incident, the laundry piled up all over the couch and living room chair. One late evening, as I laid in the small room I shared with my son, I heard a man’s voice. I thought, “It couldn’t be?” At that moment my son came in the room and said, “Guess who’s back?” I just looked away and thought to myself, “Here we go again.” About an hour passed and the house was quiet. I decided to go to the kitchen and was shocked to see he was still there. He said,  “Hi.” I smiled and said,  “Hello.” As I walked by, I watched him fold her laundry.

I eventually left and did not look back. I have no idea what happened to them. But on occasion, my thoughts reflect and I pray that he got the support he needed to get away.

Originally Published February 25, 2019 on The Good Men Project.