By Alexa Solis
“What are you?”
This is the question that plagues me and the many who have grown up under the biracial moniker. Unsurprisingly, the answer being sought is not “a human being”. Often, it feels as though I’ve been reduced to a mere curiosity.
But I’m not a curiosity. In fact, the biracial population has exploded and is projected to continue at an unprecedented rate. According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 6.9 percent of all U.S. adults have more than two races in their background and 10 percent of babies under one in two parent households are multiracial as of data collected in 2013.
The Pew report also indicated that the dominant race, or the race by which the person feels more accepted, is often dominated by one rather than an equal distribution of the two.
Out of place and always questioned; the inability to find a place in either culture has left me with a full-blown identity crisis.
In a recent Guardian article, Burning Man Founder Larry Harvey eloquently stated that, “… it’s the touch of the brush [which] brands you black anywhere.” I wish with all of my heart that Harvey’s sentiment, eerily reminiscent of the infamous “one-drop rule” were simply completely misguided. Unfortunately, it seems to speak to the greater truth of how biracial or multiracial people are perceived in their daily lives by the media, their employers and peers.
Often the need to place someone in a group doesn’t line up with the actual cultural community in which they live.
What do you do when you feel connected to two (or sometimes more) cultures when everyone else is telling you that you can only be one?
Thus begins the quest for self-actualization. Enter an existential crisis or serious soul searching.
You now have the American biracial experience. It begins at a far younger age than anyone might realize.
When I began elementary school, all of my cohorts were absolutely certain that my father could not be my ‘real dad’ because we had different skin colors.
At that moment I had been branded as something separate, something different from either of my parents. The thing about being biracial is that you are told you need to self-identify as one or the other, and often, but not always, that is directly tied to your appearance.
Therein lies the dilemma.
I am not Mexican enough for my Latino peers, nor am I white enough for my white compatriots.
Instead you sit in limbo, waiting for someone to tell you that it’s quite all right to be many things at once, maybe even that there is a whole world out there of people just like you. People that have been mixed and muddled, and it no longer matters what they are. Though the biracial experience might be tainted by the bigotry and marginalization that often occurs, it is also filled with possibilities and opportunities for cultural diversity never before possible.
The Pew study also noted that people who are biracial rarely cite it as being a detriment to their lives. Seventy-six percent of adults who responded said their heritage has not made a difference in the grand scheme of things and only four percent said it’s a disadvantage, though the study also noted that many biracial adults have experienced discrimination in some way.
I have to agree with that.
I have seen both the good parts of human nature and the very bad, but I wouldn’t trade who I am or what I am for a second. Let’s face it, how else would I be afforded the privilege to so fully embrace two different cultures and call them my own. Though I have been faced with many an identity crisis, there is no greater joy than to be a living, breathing example of progress.