Feel it in the One Drop

This post first appeared at The Liming House on July 16 2008

I feel an identity crisis coming on.

This most recent bout of mixed-person-itis was triggered by a post over at What Tami Said, in which the eponymous author comments on “black people” (italics mine) who claim mixed heritage.

While she makes some interesting points, two of her affirmations thereupon unsettled me:

Mixed ancestry is often what we bring up to prove that we are different from other “just black” folks.

It is about elevating ourselves in the hierarchy of race–from “just black” to something special.

The folks in question are not those “bi-racial people who rightly claim both family cultures,” Ms Tami said, but those “who reach back 100 years in the family tree to tout a Cherokee princess who may or may not have existed.”

Oh dear.

I’m not bi-racial. I’m not even tri-racial. Rather, like so many other Trinidadians of my generation and prior, I’m a Chinese-Indian-white-black poster child for miscegenation.

And those roots are much less than 100 years old.

It is true that when people ask me – as they often do – what my “background” is, I reel off that list. But that is not because I’m trying to prove that I am more than merely black.

Because the fact of the matter is, I am not just black.

Nor am I just white, Chinese or Indian – and in fact I am “more” any one of those than I am black, judging by the overwhelming Chinese/Indian presence in my family tree.

So what then?

I’ve said in the past that it is only when I left Trinidad I discovered I was black. Before that, I was happily race-averse, content with and never questioning the legitimacy of my red woman status.

Now, increasingly and usually in the context of discussions socio-political, I self-identify as black.

But I still don’t know what that means. I’m working on it.

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