i make no excuses about who i am! love me, hate me, just read me!

Friday, September 10, 2010

good hair..bad hair...freckles or tan are u defined by these as a woman of color?

I am 100% Mexican American. My love is 1/2 African American and 1/2 Chippewa, Native American for those that do not know what Chippewa is. The native name is Ojibwe. We have three beautiful daughters from our sometimes tumultuous and stormy union. None of them resemble the other and this was cause for a lot of unspoken side glances and whispered gossip among family and strangers alike. When I would go to the doctors office I would inevitably get glances and doubletakes and stares when I referred to my daughters as sisters. "Oh they are sisters?" was the common question I would get. "Yes they are sisters and before you ask, yes they have the same father," I would add. I knew that was the next question on these gossipy ghetto fab chicks minds sitting in the office with their babies. I always felt the need to explain my childrens heritage and ethnic makeup, I don't know why. Just seemed that once they knew there was a legitimate reason why my caramel colored, doe eyed doll and her dresden skinned, almond eyed sister were so different, their tone and stares stopped.

I will admit that I was quite nervous when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I had nightmares that she would some how inherit the "bad" hair I had heard about from my loves Aunts. I even had dreams that she would be this ebony skinned little baby that no one would believe was mine. My love is a nice caramel color in the summer and sometimes even lighter than me, a fair skinned Mexican. His hair had wavy curls, when he had hair that is. My Father even said I ended up with a Black man to spite him, so surely he would feel the same way about my baby. Oh but when she arrived her beautiful little face and coal black "good" hair made his heart melt and everyone elses. When my second daughter arrived she was this redskinned rat faced little baby with tiny little slits for eyes and golden tips on her light reddish brown hair. In a few weeks time she turned into this pre-dresden skinned little pink beauty. When I see them next to eachother now I think how beautiful they are. Each envying things in the other, my caramel girl has curly waves and my fair skinned porcelain doll has straight. She looked like a little china doll when she was little. Then there is my mini-me she is nothing that they are and she is every bit her mama.

I had asked my love when he was little was it hard for him growing up. He said he was called "zebra" and "white boy". He felt different and was treated as such by his Aunt's and Grandma's, at least that was his perception. Other people did not believe him when he told them who his mom was, people thought he was adopted. He said he felt reverse racism even in his own home with family talking about "white folks" and equally talking about "black folks" too. He said he did not fit in with the Blacks or the Whites and settled on being a class clown to get attention and fit in. He felt angry, confused, like he should not have been born. He learned to become a chameleon, observing other people to fit in, but in his neighborhood he was rejected in many ways. He says he was not "hood" enough, he did not speak in the street slang, but rather in a more respectful manner. He says he felt the need to "come up or down to the individuals level" more for their comfort than his own. When he went to jail for the first time he had to choose who to affiliate with, he chose his Indian heritage something he was told often as a young child, "your father is Indian and that makes you Indian". Associating with them was far less drama laden than claiming White or Black. Looking back on it now he feels that he learned to fit in in any situation and that maybe at the time it was hard on him but it has served him well in life. So I knew my daughters would have the same problems somewhere down the road.

There are little comments or remarks that are made and I hate that I get defensive about them. I will never forget being in the grocery store when my oldest was about 5 and my middle was about 3. She was sitting in a cart and kept looking at this black lady who had these long beautiful braids, staring at her every turn she made. Finally the lady made this remark "Actin' like they never seen a black person before!" and she started to stomp off and I said, "Thats funny because they are black and they see their Aunts and Grandmas all the time." She looked at me and I know she was seething... but I did add, "she's just never seen extensions." This was in the 90's pre Tyra and Beyonce extensions, braids were the common look. I secretly felt good inside HAH I told her! Once my oldest entered school she had a little bully who called her "blackie" keep in mind this Mexican child was darker than my daughter. Also keep in mind that I live in a town that though there are color lines it  is not as backwoods as the next town over. We have a mix of nationalities. My little girl would come home in tears. So finally when she asked me why she was the color she was. I took a lesson from my Grandma Katie who called them chocolate and vanilla, I read a story called "Grandma Blue" to the class. Took some Neopolitan ice cream and took out a scoop of vanilla saying it was me, and then I took out the chocolate and strawberry saying this was her Dad. Then I mixed them and showed the kids the color and I asked is the ice cream still good? Of course they all said yes. I explained to them some of us might have more chocolate, or vanilla or strawberry and it shouldn't matter because we are all still the same. So that saying mean things to each other or calling someone names was just not nice. Then they all got ice cream and my daughter was the hit of the year. No more tears that year anyway.

 I check the box that says "other" on paperwork for their race/ethnicity. I guess that being who they are sometimes can be the issue of the day and that will subside as they get older.I find it sad that my oldest daughter was not black enough to hang out with the black girls and my middle daughter oddly has more black friends. Personally I think my daughter was seen as a threat to all those black girls who hated her "good hair" and her "high yellow" skin. When they tell people their ethnicity they get puzzled looks and "no you are not!" as if being Black, Mexican, and Native American has a set skin tone. My youngest fits in with everyone anywhere, but that is because she is outgoing. So I find it strange that my straighthaired girl still flatirons her hair as much as my curly locked daughter. My freckle faced girl hates her freckles she who barely tans 1/2 a shade when in the sun all day. My oldest is tan all year round. My hair is more nappy than any of theirs! Oooh and girl my "kitchen" is a mess, (that is the nape hair on your head). Good hair, bad hair, bee stung lips, or just right lips, freckles, or tan.... these things don't define you. As a good friend says "I define me!" Embrace your uniqueness.

1 comment:

  1. This is greaat, I LOVE the neopolitan ice cream idea, what a wonderful way to illustrate the concept. There are so many more mixed race kids these days than when I was growing up and I think it's a wonderful thing. The world needs to catch up a bit. I worked as a Community Advocate for many years and found that most of the paperwork that asks you to identify a race only gives one option, and very often they don't offer the "other" option that you mentioned. This is slowly changing and hopefully so are people's attitudes. By the way, did you see the movie "Good Hair"? If not you should check it out sometime.