Living in the middle

Living in the middle

Zachariah Begly

Features Co-Editor

zdbegly@goshen.edu

 

It hit me like an anvil being dropped from 15 stories above. I was told I wasn’t black enough because I did not “speak black,” whatever that means. I can still tell you every detail about that day. Time, place, what I was eating and who said it. Something that burned like that does not go away even with some aloe vera lotion and a cold pack. It stays with you until the day you die.

Being multiracial is tough in today’s society where being in the middle is not an option. Everyone is picking sides. It is hard to know which side to choose when minorities say you are too white and white people consider you not white enough.

I have lived in this deadlock as a biracial man for 19 years. I grew up in a home with a white father from the Midwest and a black mother from Haiti. I was raised in a wonderful and supporting household, but society never gave me a choice on how to live my life. I needed to pick a side.

My parents have been a big influence on my life because they allowed me to live the life I wanted to live to the best of their abilities. They always warned me that I would experience things like racism in America, but also did not let that affect their parenting to a huge extent.

They did talk quite a bit about racism, though. One thing that stuck out to me that my mother always said was that people who look like me are guilty until proven innocent.

One instance of this was when I still had my permit and I was driving home with my dad, brother and a couple of friends. I stop at a stop sign and then I stop at another sign. I finally pulled into the alleyway to drop off both of my friends and a cop light comes on. I was freaking out and going through my head to figure out what I did wrong.  I was sweating bullets because I didn’t know what was going to happen. At the same time I’m told my father to get the paperwork out of the glove compartment so that it was ready when the policeman got to the car. The cop walked over to the car, and tapped on the window. He looked mean and stern, but when he looked in and saw my father, he immediately changed to happy and jovial. He informed me that I possibly did not come to a complete stop at the stop sign, but everyone in that car can attest to stopping at both stop signs we went through. I ended up getting a warning. I’m not certain I would have if it wasn’t for my father being there.        

Multiracial people were set to live in limbo from the beginning of United States history. The evidence is clear with socially accepted practices and laws such as the one-drop rule of the 19th and 20th centuries, that put any person that had “one drop of blood” that wasn’t white into the race of that “one drop.” In some states, anti-miscegenation laws that prevented interracial marriage and interracial sexual relations remained in effect existed until 1967. These laws and practices conveyed the racism of their time but they still affect today’s society. Multiracial families and people have not found their place.

Multiracial people don’t suffer racism on the same level as their monoracial minority counterparts. Historically in the United Statesthe closer to white you were, the better. During slavery, slaves of darker complexion often worked in the fields and those of lighter complexion were in the house.

This has caused a continued multilayered system in the United States that has caused people to purchase creams to make them look more white. In cultures not just in the U.S., but around the world, it is common to see whitening creams that lighten skin and bring minorities closer to being white people. If being white continues esas the ultimate beauty standard,, we will continue to have people of color trying to look more white, breathing life into colorism.

There is an argument that we as multiracial people are the minority race we identify with because society puts us there, but it’s not that simple. I still struggle with what to identify with because I live with a white father who has given me a different culture than many of my black friends and peers. We should stand with our fellow monoracial people of color because we are allowed to stand by the table within earshot of the decision makers of society, while they are out in the field screaming for equality.

The truth is, though, we all don’t really know where to go exactly in this world because it is not black and white. All I want is for us to stop making people pick sides.

 

Zack Begly
Zack Begly
Written by Zack Begly

Reach Zack at zbegly@goshen.edu.

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