Torn between two races

Being biracial means sometimes feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere

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THE MIRROR

Despite being torn between two races, no matter how draining it can be, I know my family has and will always accept me for me.

“Too white for the black kids and too black for the white.”

I remember listening to these Earl Sweatshirt lyrics a few years back and thinking I really related to them.

As a biracial person, I have always felt out of place in life.

I grew up surrounded by one culture more so than the other. My dad, a Black man, has lived in Los Angeles since he was nine years old. The majority of his family lives in Chicago so we rarely get to see them.

My mom’s side of the family — who are white — are all over the map, but despite that, I find that I talk to them more than my dad’s side.

In August, my family and I visited my Black family in Chicago.

I was so excited to see them. Many of them I’d either never met or don’t remember.

As excited as I was, I was also incredibly nervous. Would I fit in? What would they think? I don’t talk like they do. I don’t eat the same foods as they do. I don’t have the same hobbies. I don’t shop at the same stores.

I had never really noticed how disconnected I was with my Black side until fairly recently. I used to be contempt in my own skin. Growing up surrounded by different races and cultures allowed for me to learn more about other people than myself. I started to realize everyone around me knew exactly who and what they were while I grew up ignorant to my own identity.

During the pandemic, I had noticed that a lot of my hair was dead and I did not know why. I did hours of research on Google, TikTok and countless other hair care websites to learn about hair types and different hair products I should and should not be using. My mom did an amazing job using proper products when I was a child, but as I grew up and it became my responsibility, I didn’t know where to start.

Being biracial means having a lifelong identity crisis. It means being called the n-word by white people. It means being “whitewashed” by Black people. It means not truly knowing where I fit in. I am told that I am Black, society labels me as Black, but I don’t always feel Black.

When applying for college and filling out forms, I am always told to put “Black” first and then if, given the option for a second choice, I put white, but sometimes, I feel more white. I don’t even know how, I just know that I don’t always feel Black. There are days when I wish I was fully Black or fully white, just so that I can have a clear label.

My dad was surrounded by a lot of white people while he was growing up and from preschool to middle school, I found myself in that same situation. The difference between us was that he knew and everyone else knew that at the end of the day he was Black.

His mom died shortly after he graduated college and I never got to meet her. She was a single mom and the way he speaks of her, I always wish I had known her. The closest person besides my dad who could give me guidance is out of reach.

My dad has never gotten any DNA tests despite my attempts at persuading him to. I have come to realize that my constant badgering was because it was a chance to know who I was. I felt that a DNA test would finally be the thing to tell me who I am and who I should be and maybe then I would have a sense of security.

In 2020, while people protested and fought for justice, I sat on my phone and watched. I felt guilty for not being out and speaking up. In the past, I had felt like my voice didn’t matter as much. I felt like it didn’t have as much power as a voice like my dad’s. I felt like no one would want to listen to someone who is only half Black.

I have come to learn that it doesn’t matter. Despite my lighter shade, I have family who are one broken tail light away from being another name on a cardboard sign. I think about my 92-year-old uncle, Teddy, who was in his 30s when segregation was still around. The idea that him, or any other family member could be next, terrifies me.

Even though I am torn between two races, no matter how draining it can be, I know my family has and will always accept me.

Despite what society makes me think and what people may call me, at the end of the day, I am still Isabella Thomas, a person who doesn’t need to check any boxes.