I mentioned to my brother that I had just seen The Human Stain, a film about a man who keeps his racial identity a secret and passes for white. We proceeded to have a lengthy hour plus discussion about race and identity. He's having a difficult time of it lately. We're proud multiracial people. I'm really not sure how we came to that because our upbringing was shit, creating a lot of confusion, anxiety and unhealthy ideas about race. There are few positive incidents in my childhood associated with being multiracial and plenty of negative. The positive experience that stands out most was in grade 4 social studies. We had to present our cultural heritage and/or country of origin to the class as a project. I chose to present my West Indian side. My teacher did a really good job of explaining to a class of confused kids how it is possible and completely normal even that someone so light-skinned could have any identification with black. I'm still amazed by that.
But I don't think my brother had any positive experiences. I think it was mostly confusion for him.
Well now, as an adult my brother is experiencing what I wrote about here and it's having an effect on his sense of self. He says it screws him up knowing and feeling who he is but having other people identify him or perceive him in another way. He says the hardest part is that people often think he is lying when he explains his family tree. They insist he must be greek or spanish. It's a confusing thing made worse by the fact that we live in a world that wants to box people into clearly defined categories. But how much of life is like that?
I struggled with the same problem when I was his age. But at some point I turned a corner. It doesn't bother me now. People will always identify me according to their own perceptions and biases. If I spent my whole life being what everyone thought I was within any given moment I'd be a very fragmented person. I hope he turns that corner.