This post was written by Mo Seiler.
Pure I am not,
the lessons I was taught,
only parts of me desired.
Desired…my sex, conditioned to believe my body a temple.
But it’s value calculated by the judgements of those in disbelief of its sanctity, those who only wish to leave their mark…
On the parts of me desired.
My body, torn between two worlds, I wonder,
am I enough?
Are we not the same?
My heart beats. My blood flows. My muscles move.
A mechanism measuring the passage of time.
When then. When will you take all of me?
Is it my time? Will it ever be?
Or, like a clock that no longer tells whether it’s day or night,
have I stopped moving.
Will I remain frozen, here, torn between two worlds at war,
whose time has always been?
Only parts of me desired, if it aids one world in the destruction of the other…
Victory, the spoils of war reaped by only those pure.
Alas, only parts of me desired.
-Mo Seiler 02/18
Being mixed (half black, half white) in what seems like a black and white world has always made me feel like I am my own partner; alone in the largest of crowds. Not until recently did I ever feel connected to or like I had a place in the black community.
I was told people hold the power to choose who they want to become… and they do…. based on how they react to certain mechanisms, triggers, or external forces. I’ve always taken that to heart, knowing that my actions are what define me.
It is not only my actions and the energy I put out into the universe, it is also those who came before me; my ancestors and my heritage. How I embrace that history, allowing it to live on through me as I embody that image.
What they didn’t tell me about producing this identity of my choosing is that despite putting forth all my effort to influence how others view me… I was still subject to the prejudices that society has ingrained in everyone’s mind since birth. The stereotypes that either hold me back or push me ahead of others when certain opportunities present themselves. Privilege. From my experience, that privilege is paired with resentment from others, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who I represent.
I grew up in a white and Native American home. My mother is white and her husband Native American and half Italian. I never met the black side of my family.
I was never exposed to living in a black home or black culture up close and personal. I’m originally from Chicago, IL, but I did most of my growing up in Burnsville, MN which is about 20 minutes south of Minneapolis, MN. I grew up in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood and went to public schools.
The schools themselves were diverse, but the segregation between races among the student body was obvious as I grew older and cliques formed. I was very much a floater; friends with people from multiple groups never discriminating against anyone so long as they treated me as I treated them. I’ve always been the one to want to bring people together and be friends with everyone.
I think looking back…being as open minded and accepting as I was to others… it may have played against me to never show a form of allegiance to one clique… I never disowned my black side and I never identified as white.
I never aligned with any belief system either because my family was so open, so I never connected spiritually to anything or anyone. I now believe this also played a role in my not connecting with the black community as early as I could have, because Christianity is so prevalent. I was unable to see then, that most of the connections I made were superficial. Being a floater, and growing up in the environment I did, I was privileged and thought my interactions with people weren’t based on being the “pretty, down to earth, friendly, mixed girl”.
Society tells us tan skin, exotic facial features, and loose bouncy curls are the ideal image of beauty. We should aspire to be that image or be close to those who resemble that image, otherwise we are less valuable.
With this view you’d think mixed people would struggle less, suffer less; that the pain we feel from being discriminated against is less than that of someone who has dark-skin. I remember my first partner and their family being so kind to me, I was so comfortable in their home. Their uncle, having first been told of our relationship was surprised and yelled, “D*****’s dating a Nig**r?!” I was shocked because I had felt welcomed for so long. Reality had yanked me back and shoved the awareness of this disconnect down my throat in an instant. I was choking and there was nothing I could do because I was me and I would remain me…a mixed girl, so I swallowed the truth and moved on.
As I entered college it became more obvious that I was an outsider. I went to the University of MN – Twin Cities. I had some black friends and some white friends and a few in between. I mostly kept to myself outside of my activities in rugby, arts and volunteering, because I didn’t feel like the majority of white people who attended this school could connect with me, not having experienced things I had experienced.
My school had a room called the Black Student Union where all were welcome, but the majority of students I’d see in there had dark-skin. I didn’t feel comfortable in the black community nor did I possess any knowledge of my black background because I was abandoned by that side of my family. I couldn’t relate to the culture because I did not live it. I was stuck in the middle and I felt like I had to stay there.
I think the most aware I had become of my disconnect from the black community was when I began dating someone with dark-skin. She’d often attribute some of her struggles or predicaments to being discriminated against, and her family did the same. I felt I couldn’t relate, but I was conflicted because I think I naturally give people the benefit of the doubt and couldn’t believe that every one of the issues they faced had to do with discrimination… there goes my privilege talking. But I stand by that statement. Even so, I never said anything, because who am I to tell them how they felt. If that’s how they felt, then that’s how they felt.
My partner at the time mentioned a few times how light-skin people did struggle less than dark-skin people like her (this came up mostly when she was specifically speaking about herself compared to a family member of hers). I don’t think she knew how it made me feel when she spoke of this, but I would never dare to stop her because she chose to share these feelings with me because I was “safe”. If history, and present day, has taught us anything, it’s rare for us as colored people to feel safe.
One day at the hair store, I was standing in line waiting to check out. The cashier spoke to the lady behind me, asking if we were her children, we as in me and her two dark-skin children behind her. She scoffed at the cashier and said,
“No… these are my children…” pointing to the two behind her…then looking at me… “they’re pure.”
The cashier awkwardly giggled, I think because she didn’t know what to say. Her daughter and son just stared at her… and me, I said nothing.
I didn’t really know what to say. I was surprised that she would feel so comfortable insulting another woman of color… after all, hadn’t we suffered through at least a fraction of the same issues still pressing us today? I realized then it could be a generational thing… she was older and what she held against me, wasn’t truly against me but what I represented.
Maybe I represented a black man who didn’t support his black sisters, brainwashed in loving a white woman. Maybe I represented privilege or value that society held above her own children… or something else that she felt the need to make it clear I was impure; an abomination. Society had taught her not to love herself because she did not resemble a widely accepted beauty standard like I had. Her anger to be mistakenly associated with me…masked as pride for being black.
It’s a combination of moments like these, that make me so keenly aware of how different I am to everyone around me. On the surface, it’s seen as beneficial to be mixed or be associated with mixed people…but deep down we’re resented because of that very idea society has put in place.
It’s this idea that keeps the colored community so separated…why we are unable to unite, because we can’t let go of the ideals society has told us to aspire to follow and become.
Every day I question why we keep trying to be that… why we listen to society at all. We are greater than that, more powerful…but we are distracted.
I think the mixed community as a whole is constantly being pulled apart by both white and blacks… By that I mean each side may claim us, but only when it serves them to. Yet, I’m unable to be proud of my blackness because I’m not full black. I can’t speak on being white, because I do not look it and if I did, I’d be disrespecting my black side.
It’s a lose-lose and I’m tired of that. The above poem “Race Relations” is a piece I wrote in February 2018 after the incident at the hair store which occurred in January 2017. It was after writing this piece I felt somewhat healed and comfortable enough… and compelled to attend black-related events and actively participate in activities that focused on educating or unifying the colored community. Up until now I’ve never been so determined to discover myself and solidify my place in the black community as a mixed woman.