The difference a decade makes! I actually knew a couple other kids in school who were mixed growing up. Jimmy was part Spanish and part Black. I’m not sure what Eddie was. Some people still wanted me to pick one.
J2, my aunt, was very Afro-Centric. She decided that my white mother could not raise me to be Black. Therefore, she would help out my mom. She gave me books, talked to me about stuff, etc. One day we had the conversation. I told her I wasn’t Black. A picture of her face would be awesome! Eventually, I did convince her that I am mixed, not Black or White but something else. Something I would have to create for myself.
In the hallway, on the way to class, black and white kids alike herded around me. Then the question came: â€œWhat are you?â€
I was stumped. No one had ever asked what I was before. It came buzzing at me again, like a hornet shaken from its hive. The kids surrounded me, pressing me into a wall of lockers. What are you? Hey, he wonâ€™t answer us. Look at me. What are you? Heâ€™s black. He looks white! No way, heâ€™s too dark. Maybe heâ€™s Chinese!
They were rigidly partisan. The only thing that unified them was their inquisitiveness. And I had a hunch, based on their avidity, that the question had a wrong answer. There was black or white. Pick one. Nowhere in their ringing questions was the elastic clause, mixed. The choice was both necessary and impossible: identify myself or have it done for me. I froze, and said nothing â€” for the time being.