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How I Learned to Stop Worshipping Whiteness While Growing Up Biracial

Avatar • May 19, 2015

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By Joleen Brantle of ForHarriet.com

I haven’t always been very racially aware. When I was a child Pokémon cards, cartoons, and school were of vastly greater importance to me. I was raised in a very diverse city with a strong Latino presence. I had friends of every race. Why would one’s skin color matter? It certainly didn’t to me.

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That naivety ended abruptly in 5th grade. Two significant factors came to a head. I began attending an all-white conservative Church, and my African-American father died; which catalyzed my process of rejecting him to appease the pain he had caused me, the effects of which I’m still working to undo.

Until I started attending this Church, I really hadn’t been in many, if any, racially segregated spheres. So it was a bit of a culture shock when I met people who referred to me as a “little colored girl” and told me interracial marriage, which I am proudly the product of, is a sin. But I loved these white people! As a child I always sought to please and generally took everything an adult said as the infallible truth (that actually began changing around this time). These people looked just like my mother and were very kind to me with the exception of the occasional offhand, casually racist, remark. What was I supposed to think?

Unfortunately, my father passed away a year or so before I became a part of this Church. He was from a time that didn’t put a huge emphasis on declarations of love, hence I have no memories of hugging my father or receiving any sort of affection from him. I knew from a young age that he had really hoped for his first-born to be a son. While he was alive, I responded to this a challenge, I sought to make my father want me by being the smartest, the best athlete, and the strongest in my class. I even cut my hair short and wore boys’ clothes as soon as my parents stopped dressing me. But it was all to no avail. And when he died, the energy I had used to seek his love was redirected to feed resentment. Within two years of his death, I wanted nothing to do him.

Consequently, I began to mold myself and my values in opposition to his. He was divorced, so I vowed I would never do such a thing. He was estranged from his family, so I tried to build bonds with mine. He was an angry and occasionally abusive man, so I fought to control my stronger emotions. He was a Brantley, so I wanted to take my mother’s maiden name. Most of all, he was Black, so I wouldn’t be.

Sadly, these two events, my father’s death and my attendance at an all-white Church coincided with fateful timing. I deeply resented my father and all his traits. I aspired to be nothing like him. At the same time, I was embraced by this old-fashioned, and thus, perhaps forgivably, slightly racist Caucasian Church. This had disastrous affects upon my psyche.

Obviously, my rejection of my Black side and desperate clinging to my White side manifested itself in myriad ways. If someone ever referred to me as black, I immediately and vehemently informed them of my specific racial makeup, “I’m 5/8 white, I’m Mixed not Black”! I refused to listen to any music associated with the darker race, like hip hop or rap, for fear of people stereotyping me with “those other Black people”. I regularly made fun of gospel music, and I proudly told anyone who asked that I didn’t know a single Beyoncé song. Moreover, I routinely called African-Americans “ghetto”, as that was one of the worst insults imaginable to my mind.

Furthermore, I was attracted to boys from every ethnicity except African. I told my Caucasian best friend that if she had children with the fair-haired and fair-skinned guy she liked, they would have the perfect children: blond hair, blue eyes, and lily white skin. I worshipped at the altar of Eurocentric beauty ideals. I hated my curly hair and was embarrassed when my skin tanned to a deep coffee hue in the summer. When my peers told me “I talked white” I smiled at their ‘compliment’ and was proud. I fantasized about marrying a white guy and having children with lighter skin than me and eventually purging the despised Black out of my line. I hated, and was deeply ashamed of, my African-American heritage.

Click to read the rest at ForHarriet.com

Biracial ladies, can you relate to Joleen’s story?
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ohok
ohok
5 years ago

Sad. But I can’t really feel anything for her or other mixed people. They aren’t black, I don’t subscribe to the racist one drop rule, they are mixed and majority of mixed people favor their white side because of how their families are, they are usually raised by white mothers, and because of this white supremacy society, so they already have much more priviage than black people and for the most part are accepted as the proper representation of blackness. So I’m not shocked by any mixed person worshipping whiteness cause its too common and I see it all time… Read more »

Leesha
Leesha
5 years ago
Reply to  ohok

Amen

PETTYNEXTDOOR
PETTYNEXTDOOR
5 years ago
Reply to  ohok

Who are you to say a mixed person is not Black? There is no such thing as race in the means of biology, not to mention most African Americans/ new world Black people are “mixed” in theory, so the conception we have of Blackness is an identity separate from the body. Blackness is not about biology, its a social construct meaning its about the way society responds to you. See regardless of her worship of white culture and her identifying as white she still was faced with racism, that is the point. It is not up to you to say… Read more »

ohok
ohok
5 years ago
Reply to  PETTYNEXTDOOR

If you mix black and white paint you get gray/grey. You can call the new color black or white, it is a new thing. Same goes with mixed people who have one black parent. They are not black, nor are they whatever the other parents race is, They are something new. We as black people always sub to the one drop rule what white society created to keep their race “pure”, accepting everyone who was rejected by their non-black parent’s race . Mixed people, who have a direct mix (not some great x100000000000 Granparent who was maybe non-black) who have one… Read more »

Nne
Nne
5 years ago
Reply to  ohok

We as black people always sub to the one drop rule what white society created to keep their race “pure”, accepting everyone who was rejected by their non-black parent’s race”
Thank you

PETTYNEXTDOOR
PETTYNEXTDOOR
5 years ago
Reply to  ohok

But, did you understand the concept of Blackness that I just laid out to you? Because essentially you are also subscribing to the white supremacist conception of race if you believe that Black identity is linked to something this arbitrary. For example, I have one Black parent, im clearly mixed however my little sister is the same but passes as monoracial she looks fully Black, and she identifies as Black. Is she still not Black? Her experience is virtually the same because to the world she is Black? So at what concentration of Black do you qualify to be Black?… Read more »

ohok
ohok
5 years ago
Reply to  PETTYNEXTDOOR

What you described about your sis is black passing. Like Obama, he is mixed but he looks black. Same with some mixed people who pass as white. Doesn’t make them white or black. Yes race is a social construct. But ethnicity/ ethnic traits isn’t. The African ethnic traits most black people with 2 black parents and mostly black ancestry share. You are mainly concentrating on what society sees you as. Which is still through the eyes of whiteness.. just because of what society says doesn’t make it right (we all know how effed up society is). Blackness to me can be… Read more »

Anne-So
Anne-So
5 years ago
Reply to  PETTYNEXTDOOR

I completely agree with you! Although I’m not american. I still share the view you have.
thanks for bringing intelligent things in all of this.

PETTYNEXTDOOR
PETTYNEXTDOOR
5 years ago
Reply to  ohok

Just to add on, I wasn’t criticizing your apathy towards this article because I think it is justified, I’m tired of these woe is me stories too. Many times mixed Black people’s stories/voices are elevated just because they are mixed or perceived closer to whiteness, so I definitely get that aspect.

ohok
ohok
5 years ago
Reply to  PETTYNEXTDOOR

Indeed. Im quite tired of these woe is me mixed person struggles. I get it happens, but I sub to these sites who, as this site suppose to be, about natural hair care, especially “type 4” hair. I’m sick and tired of articles like this. I just want more natural hair stuff. I’m sure there are sites for stories like this. Just keep natural hair sites about.. natural hair.

Tahtahme
Tahtahme
4 years ago
Reply to  ohok

Not all mixed people are white, which is an annoying assumption people who are actually mixed with native or indigenous blood have to deal with. Half White people often do tend to lean towards their white side–but this is because we are all living in a White Supremacist society, and there is a constant power struggle between all people classified within their races. That doesn’t make it ok, it just explains their predictable action just about every time. Lastly, “Black” is a racial description. Being “African” is one thing, but to decide who is Black based on them NOT applying to… Read more »

Leesha
Leesha
5 years ago

Okaaaaaaay. This was an awful post and written really poorly. And who on earth calls themselves a mulatto?-it’s like saying I know it’s wrong to use the word nigg-er but it helped so much to understand my roots. Wth??!! All I know is whether my future child is black or mixed, she or he will no themselves and I will let them know they are black no matter what and there’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t want any confused child — poor love.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago
Reply to  Leesha

I know people from Latin America who commonly use mulatto. They call me that and I say ‘no, I’m black.” I only use the term in a historical context because I do a lot of genealogy research and that’s what they put on the census back in the day.

Malemba
Malemba
5 years ago
Reply to  Leesha

I disagree. The article was not only well written, but it revealed the author’s courage, which is well beyond her years. The fact that the subject matter is disturbing doesn’t take away from this.

Camille
Camille
5 years ago
Reply to  Leesha

Maybe they don’t realize they are calling black people mules lol. I guess being half horse takes the sting out? I’m of the same mind as you about my future children. You can know you are mixed/biracial and still be black. Lots of people are totally fine with it. A lot of racism is visual, and the idea that someone can deny their heritage when it’s THE reason people are treating them so badly is insane and unhealthy. People who are part black also face racism.

Q
Q
5 years ago
Reply to  Leesha

Lots of black people call themselves and their friends n‑ggas

Leesha
Leesha
5 years ago
Reply to  Q

Nigga is different from nigg-er its derogatory as is mulatto.

Runawrye
Runawrye
5 years ago
Reply to  Leesha

I enjoyed this post and thought it was very well written. What didn’t you like about her writing style? Your comment full of grammatical errors that I would call poor writing.

Belle
Belle
5 years ago
Reply to  Leesha

Yea I can’t but help to question what was feed to her as a child.…

cryssi
cryssi
5 years ago

Whew, it seems some sort of self loathing psychological damage was done to this poor woman. I couldn’t imagine hating the skin I was born with. It seems some people can’t understand how in this day and age that some one can feel that way about themselves. I’ve never dealt with it, but I understand it. My family is from the south. My deep complexioned aunt was abused by my deep complexioned grandma. My grandma loved her, but she just had such a deep seeded hatred of the color of their skin. My light skinned, green eyes aunt slept with a… Read more »

Leesha
Leesha
5 years ago

I’m sure it’s full of grammatical errors, you still got my point though otherwise you wouldn’t have responded. It was poorly written there’s 2 parts, she hates black people, she ends by calling herself a mulatto- yet the title implies she learned to accept her blackness. She doesn’t mention any black inspirations- she sounds confused. I’m mixed, I still call myself black though because I’m not confused about how I am perceived by others and I’m not a black apologist. The post was just awful, and sad but not in an emotive way.

Camille
Camille
5 years ago

I don’t get that either. Very few biracial girls look like Jennifer Beals. Not that Jennifer ever hid her heritage, but it WAS NOT common knowledge that she was part black until WAY after that movie came out lol. Ironically, there seem to be MORE biracial/mixed black actresses than FULL black female media representations. You could make a better argument that they are OVER-represented. I also think it’s worth pointing out that black websites and blogs are much more hospitable to articles like this than white ones are, and that fact is rarely acknowledged as acceptance, but with accusations of… Read more »

Nadia Makara
Nadia Makara
5 years ago
Reply to  Camille

Be careful with the term FULL black. There is really no such thing. What does that even mean? The reality is that almost all black people are mixed to some extent. We are a people of mixed ancestry with a common African ancestry.

christinanolanXD
christinanolanXD
4 years ago
Reply to  Nadia Makara

So I suppose we must all refrain from calling white people white? Because they’re also mixed.

And let’s stop calling hispanics hispanics.. because they’re mixed.

OH also native americans. They must be mixed too. And Asians, they’re mixed too.

Lol FOH. Not everyone is North American. I’m African 100% but like in the UK. I AM FULL BLACK. My ancestry says so, as far back as I can trace.

Stephanie Dominique
Stephanie Dominique
4 years ago

I agree

JenniD
JenniD
5 years ago

This was a good read. It really boils down to your environment growing up. Sadly a lot of obvious looking black folks have this problem too. Not getting exposed to a variety of people regardless of color leads to this kind of thinking. This woman was trying to fit in and blend in so much so that she rejected apart of herself to do so. This isn’t really isn’t about race as much as insecurity and trying desperately to fit in. I knew plenty of middle class black folks in school who attempted to act “ghetto” to fit in with… Read more »

3caramel7
3caramel7
5 years ago

I’m black and live in Europe and therefore don’t have the one drop rule.But with parents from Jamaica, having a mixed heritage and being proud of a mixed heritage is part of the course. Par example Colin Powell.

christinanolanXD
christinanolanXD
4 years ago

Sooooo… what’s the take away from this????????

Tahtahme
Tahtahme
4 years ago

This was a highly upsetting read, I think mostly because there felt to be no real conclusion, and beyond that it wasn’t very well written. She spent more time talking about how much she hated Black people and what things she did to show her hatred, then how she overcame this hatred and worked to rectify this in her mind. Especially bizarre was her mentioning a ton of very racist remarks and microaggressions, and then still only describing the church as “slightly racist”… ‑_- Like…OK. On my own racist-o-meter, that sounds VERY racist to me, but hey. I don’t talk white. Mixed… Read more »

Return the Stone
Return the Stone
5 years ago

im sorry but why do Mixed/Mullatto girls keep saying Jennifer Beals paved the way for mixed girls in Flashdance? I know this might sound ignorant but the first time i watched it i didnt think she was black, plus there were two biracial girls on the Cosby Show, there were biracials in the Jeffersons, and a movie called Pinky from way back detailed life in the most terrible eras for any one in the black race. I’m just saying.

Belle
Belle
5 years ago

Right I had no idea Jennifer was black until I seen a older version of her in that show on HBO where she played that lesibian role.…there’s so many other mixed people in the industry why is Jennifer a reference point?

Bigantic
Bigantic
5 years ago

There can be three sides to this triangle of flow, stability, and acceptance. In this case, the three sides would be european culture/genes, african culture/genes, and a mix of the two together.

It seems like this girl went from hating black culture/race and worshiping white culture/race to accepting herself as a mix of both (aka “mulatto”) yet still not being fully accepting the of black culture/race she is mixed with.

Belle
Belle
5 years ago
Reply to  Bigantic

I agree.… this thing with not accepting the blood she was born with is beyond me. Thats really deep. If I felt that way about myself I would get counseling.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago

Speechless.

Belle
Belle
5 years ago

I wish people would stop making things so confusing it’s really sad to feel this mixed up inside about who you are. Love yourself stop worrying about what anyone thinks that’s what people really need to learn. This brain washing that has been done very well with the races has to stop it’s just ridiculous we have all the knowledge now as to the hate towards people of color so stories like this makes me shake my head. Love yourself you not accepting your other side and judging black people calling them ghetto didn’t hurt anyone but yourself. You not… Read more »

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