Race has been a huge issue in my life. The daughter of a white mother and a black father, I was born and raised (mostly) on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, several miles off the East Coast. I was the darkest person most of the island’s inhabitants had ever seen.
Between the ages of six and fifteen, I heard the word “nigger” every school day. My classmates threatened and beat me, but administrators told my parents there was nothing they could do because they were not present when these incidents occurred. I assume things would be much different today, but those were the ‘80s and no one in that area had had much experience dealing with that sort of thing.
I was very excited when, at the age of fifteen, I moved to Washington, D.C. I looked forward to living among other Black people. But on my first day of school, my middle school classmates accused me of trying to be White! In their defense, I was pretty “white” in my speech and skin coloring and I wasn’t at all familiar with inner city life. To them, I was an “Oreo” or worse, a “wanna be-White girl.” I was shocked and disappointed. I hadn’t prepared for that.
It was confusing. I wasn’t sure where I belonged and there weren’t many people offering to help me figure that out. I knew I couldn’t live as a White person, even if I wanted to. My skin wasn’t the right color for that and anyway, a lifetime of being called the “n-word” pretty much ruled that out. My response, like that of many Black people in my situation, was to become almost militant in my “Blackness”. I took every opportunity to cry about the injustice of racism. I was angry and I made sure White people knew that. Luckily, most of my young adult life was spent around other liberal Black people and Caucasians trying to expiate for their society’s sins towards Blacks. My near-daily pronouncements of institutional racism and a society rigged for rich White Republicans was always met with enthusiastic agreement.
When I became a conservative and began to embrace a philosophy of self-determination and individual responsibility, everything changed. I realized that the race issue had been my crutch, that the giant chip on my shoulder from my childhood experiences had crippled me. I refused to let the kids I tutored after school use their circumstances as an excuse for failure, how could I allow the same for myself? It was at that time that I finally shrugged off those chains of victim hood and really embraced the totality of my experience, my race and what my race meant for my life. I concluded that it didn’t really mean as much as I originally thought it did. Because race had played such a huge part in my daily existence for so long, I thought it was all that really mattered.
I was married around the same time. I began to see myself as a wife and then a mother, and race no longer seemed so important. I was not a Black mother, I was a mother. I was not a White woman, I was a woman. I was not a biracial wife, I was a wife. I decided to not allow race to be a part of my every day life. I decided to be proud of who I was in that moment, how I talked, who and where I came from – all of it. And what freedom that brought! I was suddenly free to be myself, unapologetically, and I found (surprisingly, to me) that most people found that an attractive quality. I drew more people to me as a confident young woman than as an angry young BLACK woman. I made a pact with myself to never “prove” myself as a Black woman again. I would simply reject those games, and I have for a very long time now. I have been happy to be me, finally. I have been content with this package. When I am challenged as to how I conduct myself racially, I simply say, “This is me. All day long. Deal with it.”