Today in “Tragic Mulatto News”: I feel uncomfortable identifying as a black woman

By Sonia Marie Sells*

Photo credit: Sonia Marie Sells


Identity isn’t only how you see yourself, but how others see you. That’s the case whether any of us like it or not.

I’m certainly not white (one-drop rule, blah blah blah), but I definitely benefit from white/light-skinned/3c curl privilege. Time and time again, black people have made it clear that my membership to the black community is on thin ice because of this. I can claim to black if I want to, but if I don’t uphold certain ideas of blackness, then I’ve obviously renounced it and gone over to the other (privileged) side.

But it’s not just black people who have made me feel this way—I can’t have pride in any one part of my culture because I’m renouncing the other(s). I can’t have pride in being biracial because then I’m renouncing everyone. If you don’t neatly fit into a box others have designed, then you must hate that box—why else wouldn’t you do all you can to fit into it?

I can’t pretend like it doesn’t bother me to feel like I don’t fit in, like I’m only as valuable as my success is to whoever wants to claim it. It’s unnerving to go into any interaction with someone afraid to say/do the wrong thing because that person may judge or deny you. It sucks to feel like being true to yourself is a betrayal to anyone (especially to people who have been through enough.)

I’ve said this millions of times, but the exposure I’ve been afforded to various cultures is a blessing. It’s allowed me insight few monoracial people are ever granted. I am the proud descendant of peoples from all over the world who have achieved and overcome so much. However, this supposed blessing of diverse experiences can feel isolating.

Mixed people very often born into families where people only know what it means to be white/black/Asian/Latinx, etc. and don’t (fully) understand the nuances of existing in a combination of these spaces. Even in the most “colorblind” of upbringings, we’re aware of our differences before we even know what they mean. Then, once we’re sent out into the world, there’s no amount of familial encouragement that protects us from the sting of being told we’re “not _____ enough.” Basically, we’re as confused about where we fit in as you are.

Logically, I recognize that none of this really means anything in the grand scheme of things. I know I don’t owe anything to anyone but myself. But an identity crisis is a valid concern, regardless of who experiences it, and especially when the parameters of this identity are beyond your control. It’s human nature to want to belong and I’m not immune.
*This piece originally appeared on it has been reposted here with the author’s permission.

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