Being Mixed Sucks

I say that being mixed is no big deal. I should say, I wish it was no big deal because, in reality, it can be a blessing, a pain, an agony, a tearing of the mind and/or soul.

I'm reading "The Warmth of Other Suns," about the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to just about anywhere else. It focuses on three people, none of whom are significantly mixed, but also tells the story of a mixed family that crushed me. Here's what happened:

A family of mixed people is driving out of the South to California. The people in the car include a grandfather, grandmother, mother and her three children. All of them are very fair skinned with wavy hair except the youngest grandson. He's brown.

There are almost no hotels along the way that take "Colored" people. The grandfather - the only one who drives - is getting tired. He can't drive any more. They stop at a hotel and, according to the story, he self identified as Black and tried to get them a room. No, he is told. No darkies allowed.

They go to the next hotel. This time, he doesn't identify. He just asks if they have a room. Sure, they say, here's your room key. Bring your family in.

Great, except for that pesky brown grandson. They cover him in blankets and carry him in "like a bag of groceries." According to his sister, who told the story, the boy was emotionally scarred by that one event and troubled from that day forward.

Here's what I think: that family often tried to pass or wished out loud that they could pass but couldn't because of this little boy. I think they weren't quiet about it being his "fault" that their lives were harder than needed. I know how that generation was. They were not worried about hurting their kids' feelings. Unlike today's parenting mantra, not everyone was a winner. So it wasn't that one moment during their migration or the cursed South that wrecked this boy. It was his family, who made him feel like a bag of groceries.

Families aren't much different today. Sure, very few people try to pass. Being light skinned or ambiguous is becoming enough to get broadly accepted. So, there's no need to hide the brown son. But how we treat the brown son hasn't changed enough. I have a close acquaintance who has two biracial sons. One is light-skinned with wavy hair. He was allowed to grow it long and now wears it in "cool" corn rows. The other son is brown skinned, has full lips and tight, curly hair. He doesn't look mixed. He looks Black. And, according to his mother, he is the less good looking one.

She said this to me and I know that, across America, other parents are saying or thinking the same thing about their children. That doesn't mean they don't love them. My acquaintance loves both of her sons and also is very vocal about the fact that the brown one is smarter and will probably end up being taller. And thankfully he wasn't around at the time. But the way she said it, like it was fact, makes me believe that it is common talk around their house. So, here he is, going through the most awkward age - 13 with braces, yikes! - and his family has "agreed" that he's not good looking. His 17-year-old, light-skinned brother with his straight teeth (he already had his braces) and long, soft hair is the handsome one.

And this is when being mixed sucks. When everyone says "mixed babies are so cute," they aren't talking about the ones who come out looking White, Asian or Black. They are talking about the ones who have the perfect blend of two groups' characteristics. If you don't have that, you're not as cute. And so, before you're fully formed, it's already been decided. You are less than your siblings. You are less than other mixed people. You don't fit in with a group that is already small and usually without community. And, if you're a color that continues to be discriminated against, you're less than people who you may, actually, be greater than. You're stuffed under the blanket for the rest of your life.

Heartbreak in 2013.

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