11 People Break Down The Reality Of Being Mixed In America

11 People Break Down The Reality Of Being Mixed In America
PHOTO: SABRINA MAY / UNSPLASH

Growing up Black, Spanish and white left me bewildered as a kid in the '90s. There were very few people who looked like me on TV and neither of my parents ever brought it up, so I let my feelings about it build up inside me for years. 

I'm not alone in this. Having grown up in a mixed family with a mixed best friend and met mixed people of all sorts of backgrounds over the years, I know that being mixed comes with a unique set of challenges. In the interest of exploring what it's like to be mixed in America, I asked other mixed-race people and parents of mixed individuals to tell me about their experiences and existence. From feelings of not fitting in and the idea of "passing" to parents' fears about raising mixed kids, we covered it all (and then some).

Submissions have been edited for grammar, clarity, and style.

Redhead Woman

Carolyn T., 25

A self-proclaimed ginger, many would be surprised to know that Carolyn, with her signature porcelain complexion, actually has Hispanic blood flowing through her. She tells me she just “goes with it” and isn't bothered much when people assume she’s only white, adding that she’s yet to have problems being mixed. 

“Maybe things would be different if I looked more Mexican, but I don't think about that stuff," she explains. 

Brandy M., 38

Brandy M., 38

Brandy may not be mixed, but her seven kids are. Lining them all up, you can definitely tell that they're all related — though the complexion of her oldest son, whose skin is much lighter than his brothers and sisters', might throw you off a bit. Because of his skin tone, Brandy tells me her son has been harassed and teased by kids who do not believe he’s mixed or even related to his siblings. Being a strong mama bear, she's had to explain to her son that while he may not look like them, he still looks like her, and that's OK.

Loretta M., 29
PHOTO: UNSPLASH
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Loretta M., 29

With a complexion that matches her Scottish mother's more than her Mexican/Native American father's, Loretta admits that she’s never really faced the same realities as people with darker skin — like being followed around a store or harassed by police. That passing privilege has come with a downside, though: the ignorance of others about her heritage. 

“I think most of my struggles stem from identity issues and the overtly racist comments non-Indians (mostly white people) make to me," she explains. "Oftentimes, after someone learns of my heritage, they immediately make some sort of racist and/or dumb comment — whether it’s a war whoop, referring to me as ‘Pocahontas’ or a ‘savage,’ telling me that they’ve always ‘felt Indian’ because of their romanticized views of what it means to be an Indian, or [telling me] that their grandmother was a ‘Cherokee princess.’ 

"It seems that white people think it is okay to make these comments to me because I look like them, which is far from what they think an Indian should look like," she continues. "In fact, I’ve had people justify their ignorant remarks by attempting to dismiss my identity: 'You’re not really Indian, though.' "

Michael A., 29
PHOTO: UNSPLASH
4 / 11

Michael A., 29

“People sometimes think I’m a completely different race. It doesn't bother me," says Michael, who's Mexican, Native American, and white. "I think it’s cool that I am ethnically ambiguous when it comes to certain races. I embrace all walks of life.

"People will always assume things about you, good or bad," he adds. "It’s not until they really get to know you that they can really see for themselves. Embrace every layer of yourself!”

Brittany W., 30

Brittany W., 30

Brittany's daughter is not only Black, but also Haitian and white. The fact that she's mixed doesn't worry the new mom, though — rather, it's the fact that her daughter looks Black in a world that judges people based off the color of her skin. 

Jasmine, 34
PHOTO: UNSPLASH
6 / 11

Jasmine, 34

Being Filipino, Guatemalan, and Swedish, Jasmine's racially ambiguous looks often confuse people. “If they decide to say anything, people generally assume I’m Latina, Middle Eastern, or Southern European,” she said. 

She tells me she struggles with feeling like she doesn't belong to any particular community, though if she had to pick one, she'd go with the mixed community, "where the thing that bonds us isn’t language, traditions, or culture, but rather the struggle of floating between two or more categories and having to deal with society’s misconceptions.” 

Jasmine adds that she's noticed recently a trend of many white people claiming to identify as mixed, "citing ancestry from a handful of neighboring European countries." It troubles her.  

"Maybe I’m coming off as snarky, but it feels as if we’ve hit this turning point where, instead of looking down on or being confused by the mixed-race population as in generations past, the general population has exoticized and has now started to appropriate this label for their own identities," she explains.

Pow Wow
7 / 11

Alice M., 68

As the mother of a child who is Scottish and Native American, Alice never worried about how her daughter would be treated. She was more concerned about making sure her daughter knew both sides of her culture — “that if you don’t know where you come from, you can’t know where you’re going," she tells me. 

"I took her to the Scottish Highland Games and the Indian Pow Wows. She learned about each culture and history eating different foods.”

Lauren B., 30
PHOTO: UNSPLASH
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Lauren B., 30

Lauren B. called herself and her husband “the lucky ones." Though they're both mixed, “We haven’t really ever felt prejudiced against as an interracial couple." 

S.C., 43
PHOTO: HALFPOINT
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S.C., 43

When S.C., who is white, found out she was pregnant as a teen, she was sure that she and her partner, who is Black, would face some stigmas based on that alone. Then she got to thinking about how white people would treat her son. 

While they live in a diverse community now, S.C. still fears the bad things in life that may affect her Black and white son's life because of his appearance. 

"As a parent, you want to protect your babies from the negativity and ‘bad’ things," she says. "You worry about EVERYTHING."

She tells me her son has occasionally been subjected to hatred and discrimination because of her race — "not so much about him being mixed, but being Black," she explains. 

"In a perfect world, in an emergency, you teach your kids to seek out police," she continues, "but for many minorities, the police can be just as scary as the threat they are facing. That is a horrible feeling as a parent — being white and knowing it would be different for me than it would be for my son.”

Dana G., 45
PHOTO: UNSPLASH
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Dana G., 45

As the parent of a mixed kid, Dana makes sure to bring conversations about race to the table when it comes to her 13-year-old son, who is Moroccan, Russian, Italian and American-Caribbean. 

"I think it’s really important for him to understand the struggles and the strength of the people that came before him, before us, so he can appreciate what he has and so he understands how important it is for all of us to continue to fight for equality," she explains.

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KENDRA BELTRAN

Growing up in a double wide trailer in the middle of a California desert, Kendra used her smarts to go to college. Only she didn't realize that adulthood was the next stop after graduation. Struggling to start any sort of career out of a makeshift degree, she fell into blogging. Experiencing a multitude of highs and lows on that path...she wouldn't trade it for a typical 9-5 ever. Today she spends her days writing while simultaneously going back and forth between binging Frasier and The Office.

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