Why I Don't Do Halloween

Before I got my first pro haircut at 11, people would ask if I was a boy.

And ever since that haircut, strangers have been comfortable asking, "What are you?" in reference to my race and ethnicity.

I don't enjoy the question and answer process, so why encourage something similar by putting on a costume? I'll let everyone else have Halloween. They can revel in their one day a year of being asked what they're dressed as, while I continue to spend the other 364 days of the year being prepared to explain what I actually am.

Black on Black Hate

Normally, my Mixed musings are upbeat or things that amuse me. Aside from the one about the woman faking black, these are tales from the lighter side of being light skinned. Sadly, this post isn't like the others.

Sometimes I forget that there are black people who hate other black people. Specifically, who hate black people who look as if, 150 years ago, we would have worked in the big house and been one of massas favorites, which sounds like a twisted hell of rape, abuse and privilege.

I do sometimes meet folks who need a little convincing of my authenticity -- a few key words or phrases that show I'm keepin it real. But being real is about all the Court of Black Opinion in San Francisco usually demands.

A recent trip to Nashville was a blast from the antebellum past.

I land in Nashville one summer evening. Having just taken a 3+ hour flight, I'm wearing glasses, my hair is pulled back and I'm in some comfy combo of jeans and t-shirt. In other words, by no means am I showing off.

My brother (who is white) picks me up and we immediately dash to the grocery store. We're talking and laughing as we walk up to the store doors, where a young, dark-skinned black woman is working security. As I angle to give her the "I see you, sister" nod, she turns away and speaks to another woman working the cash register.

"Light skinned," she says, using her outdoor voice and head to point at me. "I hate me some light-skinned girls."

(Sputter, sputter, loss of words) "Really?!" I gape, now trailing behind my brother to bug my eyes at her.

In the weeks that have followed, I've thought back on that moment several times. I wish I'd been emotionally and mentally prepared so I could have said to her, "Sister, when we hate on ourselves, we hold ourselves back." or "Yeah? Well I'm glad my man doesn't feel that way!" or "Why waste your time generating hate for your own people? Spend it pulling yourself and others up." Or some other wise-ish, enlightening, mind-expanding but short thought. Instead, I spent the whole time we were in the grocery store trying to figure out how this kind of destructive ish is still happening in 2015 when we've got so much larger fish to fry?

When I shared this story with a friend from Memphis, she shook her head and said, "Yep, Nashville black folks don't have any power so they spend their energy on dumb stuff. In Memphis, folks have some kind of power, so we're more about getting stuff done."

It was a good reminder. When we're made to feel less than and like an "other," it's hard to not turn that hate around and use it to make other people feel less than and like an other. In the face of blind hate, I'm glad to have the love of friends to help me turn the other cheek.

Why Rachel Dolezal is Wrong, According to An Actual Light-skinned Black Woman

Wanting to support and be around people who aren't exactly like you is a wonderful thing. In our racially turbulent country, it's even a gift. But giving a gift requires vulnerability. A true gift includes exposing yourself and allowing the recipient to accept or reject.

Rachel Dolezal is selfish and generous, like most of us. She wanted to make a difference. She wanted to live the life that felt right to her. But she didn't trust that her gift would be good enough to be accepted if she was herself. The selfish undermined the generous and now her gift is a punchline in the community she wanted to be a part of.

As a light-skinned black woman, I know the worry of uncertainty that comes with walking into a group of black folks and not knowing if I'll be accepted. I can relate to Rachel's fear, on some level, in that way. What she can't honestly relate to me around is the fear of wondering if my race, racial experience, black life knowledge will all be questioned and tested. Her fear is around being found out. Mine is around being found lacking.

And, like many mixed kids, I know the awkward feeling of being stared at while with a parent who doesn't look like you. Or being with both your parents and watching people do the math ("1 Black + 1 White = 1 Tan, ah, I get it!")

But, by being myself as much as possible, I earn my place in the room. I'm not sadity. I love to laugh, have a good meal, dance, clown. These are the things that people either like or don't about me. Not, in the end, my racial heritage.

Rachel might love all those things too. But it seems that she thought that the only way they were worthy is if she could say, "I love these things because I'm black." She put on her best black costume and hit the town.

What Rachel will never know is that black people can accept, embrace even, a person who is genuine and good and (gasp) not black. She could have been herself, married a black guy, had black girlfriends, volunteered in black community centers and been a role model for other white people.

Rachel Dolezal was wrong to act black because she tried to act like she was giving the gift of a diamond ring but her ish was really just a CZ knock off.

p.s. Since this has blown up even more, there's been talk of Rachel's desire to be black being similar to a transgender person's desire to be a different sex. Personally, I think the idea of transracial minimizes the transgender experience. To put it simply, people change gender because they MUST to live their personal and sexual life fully. But you don't HAVE to be black to date and be friends with black people and fight for civil rights.

p.p.s I've also heard that Rachel is calling the fallout "vicious." If she really had lived the black experience, she would know that we deal with painful events by turning them into a joke. Her lies and mental illness are painful, which means we're going to laugh at it. Welcome to our real world, Rachel.

Thank You, Prince

When I left St. Paul for Northwestern University, the only thing almost every black person knew about Minnesota was Prince. As in "Purple Rain", the artist formerly known as a symbol and the coolest cat to come out of the Twin Cities.

Minneapolis is about 20% African-American and St. Paul about 16%. The Twin Cities used to be among the top cities in the U.S. for biracial people. But black people from other parts of the country don't know all that. They assume Minnesota is lily white. Maybe it's the Scandanavian accent.

But Prince was cool and sexy. He gave being from Minnesota a little cred. Not quite swagger but at least I had a fighting chance to earn my place in the community. Sure, I got teased for how I pronounce my home state but I code shifted the hell out of everything else and found my way in the community.

From one mixed kid to another, thank you, Prince.

Mixed Kid Eye Color

In 7th grade, we had a science fair. Most kids either phoned it in or did something visually dramatic like growing beans in a cupboard (creepy). For my project, I created a poster board that, now that I think about, was basically an explanation for why my mom and I don't look alike, starting with our eyes.

I'm mixed. I have dark brown eyes, with no variation. No hints of gold, flecks of black. Just deep, dark brown eyes. My mom is white. Her eyes are blue-grey with dashes of navy and silver. Among many other features, our eyes are part of what makes us a confusing mother-daughter pair.

So, at age 12, I set out to explain how eye color happens. It turns out to be pretty complex so I focused on the high level - recessive, dominant, etc. I painstakingly drew each eye for two parents and two children and wrote up the mixture that led those children to share or not share a parent's eye color.

I took home a blue medal and knowledge that would carry me through many conversations about why I don't look like my own parents. Both the knowledge and the medal were pretty damn satisfying!

A Jew's First Easter

Yesterday I did an egg hunt for the first time in my life. As a black woman raised Jewish, I don't have a lot of experience with Easter. I associate it with ham, a mawkish rabbit and bad chocolate. As a kid, I never felt like I was missing anything because Passover is pretty awesome. Multiple nights of food, family and free money. Good times.

But I agreed to spend yesterday with a friend who loves the Easter egg hunt. I was down for it. It's Sunday; aside from read the Times, what else am I going to do?

Well, give me a late pass and send me to the principal: Egg hunts are fun! I hid eight eggs, my friend hid eight eggs and then we each went egg hunting. I believe I may have crowed at one point. As corny as it sounds, I was totally delighted.

Now I'm wondering what else I'm missing out on. Is Ramadan actually a soul-satisfying period of gentle starvation? Should I give a solstice party a chance? And what's that holiday George Costanza's dad made up? Festivus! I'm definitely down with holding onto a pole and airing some light grievances.

My point? I need to take more advantage of this ambiguous heritage and other people's stuff more.

Racial Progress for the Biracial Couple

Last week I went to see "Selma" with a friend who is Black. After the emotional movie ended, he said, "Well, I think we've made some progress since then because I'm dating a White woman and no one has tried to kill me."

This isn't progress compared to 1966. I'm mixed and was born less than a decade after the march to Montgomery. As far as I know, no one tried to kill my dad during his short-lived marriage to my mom.

Decline in violence is a low bar for measuring progress. "No one tried to kill me" should be a given. Interracial couples being a norm shouldn't even be a measuring bar. What other people do with each other is, in the long run, unlikely to truly impact you. So, while some folks like to get heated about gay marriage or their trust-funded daughter running around with "the help," most of us really don't care.

What most people care about, on some level, is money and power. When other people have it and we don't, we get frustrated and sometimes hateful. When we have it, we work to keep it. Historically, this looks like preventing other people from getting it too.

Decades of people of color having an unimpaired path to money and power - in the voting booth, in our neighborhoods, in the work place - was a problem in 1966 and is still a problem today. I'll know we've made progress when all schools are funded so all children have access to a complete education and positive learning environment. I'll believe we've made progress when an election goes by without a single story of voting rights being blocked. We can all quietly enjoy the signs of progress when a Black person accomplishes something great and no one says, "She's the first African American widget inventor."

Being mixed is not big deal. Being in a biracial relationship is even less of a big deal. None of us Shackleton, exploring unknown seas and surviving without support for months.You're just two people doing something about as weird as wearing a shirt inside out.

The big deal, like Really Big Deal, is when any of us, no matter what color we are, actively do something to share our path to money, power, ease and happiness with other people. Tutor, volunteer for voter registration, donate to a worthy (by your estimation) cause, hold the door for someone who looks different from you. Being unafraid of bringing others with you as you rise, that's progress.