Maturing into a world that was ever-more aware of the societal challenges that face us, I was proud to be bi-racial and to look a little different than my White friends. I figured that by the time I was in my twenties, the obstacles that I had learned about facing me and other women of colour throughout history would be drastically minimised. However, it is obvious that we are far from that realisation. During the past several months since the brutal murder of George Floyd in the United States, both America and the world have become more conscious of the presence of race and ethnic diversity and have largely come together to call for civil justice and equality. Why is it the case, in a fight for racial equality, that if you’re bi-racial you’re not really welcome in the conversation? You can’t be a figurehead? You can’t possibly ‘understand’ the struggles of people of colour? I call B.S…
I was the only olive-skinned child in my predominately White elementary and middle schools, a fact I was aware of from the very beginning. Despite living in Houston (a largely diverse city), I was raised into an incredibly colourless community; and as far as I knew, it was just me and my ‘complicated’ surname against the world. I often found myself in the girl’s bathroom standing underneath the fluorescent lighting, hoping with every fibre of my being that my skin would look less like ‘gasoline’ (as I then convinced myself) and more like my friends. I envied their blue eyes and freckled cheeks as I glared at myself through the mirror, pretending that my orange-hazel eyes were like theirs. After moving from Texas when I was thirteen, I convinced myself that high school in Colorado could be different, and boy was I wrong. Although I had a fantastic high school experience and had great friends, I continued to find myself at the brunt of some politically incorrect jokes. Whether it was someone laughing at my so-called ‘racial ambiguity’, pointing out that I was ‘so lucky’ to have inherited a fast Indian metabolism, or simply someone remarking on my lovely post-Spring Break tan that was just my natural skin colour year-round, I was always aware that I looked different than the vast majority of my friends and classmates.
Time passed, and these little comments remained a consistent background noise to me. As an adult, I now understand that comments like these are microagressions targeting race or ethnic appearance, something very common for people of colour to endure. Although I was experiencing these comments and microaggressions throughout my life, I finally felt that I could belong to a community of colour, rather than merely ‘Other’. But again, I found myself excluded from the conversations; instead of having too much melanin to belong, I was left out for having too little. This ‘safe-guarding’ of racial identity ultimately prevents diversity and inclusion from happening, by shaming some people of colour for not being colourful enough. In turn, this exclusion can prove to be just as harmful as other racial aggressions around the world, as it tends to leave bi-racial individuals virtually racial identity-less. I sincerely hope that in the future our world, which is becoming increasingly more cognisant of racial inequalities, will become more aware of the struggles that bi-racial individuals have, as well as other people of colour. It is clear that despite some similarities, the struggles of bi-racial people are also quite different than that of White people or other people of colour, and it is incredibly important not to leave us out of conversations about race.
Despite still not fitting in with a specific racial identity, I am immensely proud to be half-Indian and half-White. I have come to love my genes that show evidence of a beautiful mix of cultures and although my path ahead will look different to my White or PoC counterparts, I am excited to be a part of both communities. And to those who question my skin colour, name, or upbringing, I am not sorry that I’m not White enough. I am not sorry that I’m not Indian enough. Just because my struggles with racial identity have not cost me as greatly as it has others, it does not mean they are invalid. Bi-racial people deserve representation and racial equality just as much as their respective racial communities.