Identity Crisis

I am a black woman. At least, according to the State of Missouri. This either came as a surprise to you or it was a “yeah, so?” moment. But I am also a white woman. Over the years, I have had sort of an identity crisis and that crisis usually comes about when someone first meets me and eventually the converstation turns to “So, what are you?” I’ve had my number of snarky answers: Human, Female, American, etc but eventually I settled on the old standby: Multi-ethnic. Besides, that sounds much better than “Other.” But the problem with being multi-ethnic is that you really don’t belong to one group or another, you just kind of hang out there, looking for someone, anyone to accept you for who you are and that is hard to come by.

Growing up, my elementary school was more of a melting pot… there were Blacks, Whites, and Others but, you know, as a kid you don’t really notice that sort of thing. You more or less base your friends on those you like and those you don’t. And the person you like one day you may not like another. Middle School was pretty similar but a common thread through both of those existances and still remains was that while I had some ethnic friends, my best friends were… white.

My family moved to the suburbs for my high school years and I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and you would have thought that college would have been the best time for me to “re-invent” myself and really embrace my Black heritage… Nope. By the time that I got to this point, I was so ingrained in White culture, that I was afraid that I would not have been accepted by other black students. During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, there was the thought that President Obama wasn’t “black enough.” I get that. So, instead of joining the Black Student Union or taking advantage of the services offered though the Powers-Knapp Scholarship, I shied away and further repressed the ethnic side of me.

So now where am I? Living in the suburbs of St. Louis, I can count on one had the number of black girlfriends I have. As I explore my varying sub-sets of community (La Leche League, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, YMCA, MOPS) I find it over-flowing with white girlfriends but a drought for black. There are times that I really feel as if there is part of me that is lost and yearning to be found and this struggle is compounded by my raising two daughters who are categorized as Black as well. What kind of issues will my blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned elder daughter and my dark haired, dark eyed, olive skinned younger daughter have? Will they be the same? Will they differ?

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2 Comments

Filed under mothering, political

2 responses to “Identity Crisis

  1. Carmen

    How is it that the state gets to decide what ethnicity you are? Is there any legal reason for that?

    I wonder if you raise your girls with an emphasis on their faith identity as opposed to anything else… there is the passage in Galatians… but I haven’t faced this challenge, I have no BTDT sage advice. I do have confidence that you can do this, though. ❤

    • Hi Carmen! Great question. I am basing it off of when I was filling out the paperwork for little sister’s birth certificate and I questioned why there wasn’t an option for multi-ethnic or even the dreaded “other.” The nurse told me that in the state of MO, ethnicity follows the mother’s lineage (guess they are big fans of mitochondrial DNA as well… LOL, little biochem/ biology joke there.) Because the mothers in my line have been black as far back as I know, I and the girls are classified as black.

      For me, it’s the difficulty associated with in essence straddling two cultures and how do I pay respect to all of the cultures? I’ll have to find the passage in Galatians… maybe we’ll re-define ourselves as “Catholic.” 🙂

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