The Difficult Balance of Being Biracial
I am Black and White. My last name is Gray. And I exist in the middle.
As a kid growing up in upstate New York, my skin color was an anomaly.
My mother met my father in her late teens while living in Kentucky. They quickly fell in love, and he followed her home to the “North Country.” My dad was a pioneer. Many Massena, New York locals regard him as the first Black man to live in the village; fact or not, he was always proud of that.
Dad was a patient and supportive person, and he employed all of those tools to make this new place home — going way beyond what was necessary to “fit in” with his neighbors. He tolerated people checking his inner bottom lip to see if he was “really Black,” the nickname “Whitey,” even the idiocy of the locals calling him “nigger.”
My dad dealt with this bigotry, I think, because he finally felt at home. My father’s Blackness was never prevalent in his passions and interests — he was a passionate and vocal superfan of both Led Zeppelin and NASCAR — so I don’t think he ever wholly thought that he belonged with “his people.” Like my mom, he didn’t give a shit about the color of anyone’s skin; he was much more interested on the inside.
So for me, single-digit in age and growing up with such tolerant parents, I don’t think I knew that I was different. Not until the little White girls I liked gave me warm smiles but sent me notes that said they wouldn’t be my girlfriend, publicly anyway. Or the moment I walked by a lunch table and heard someone yell “Blackie!” at me, only belatedly realizing that the word was a slur. Or another day when an older kid called me that same name and threw freshly-poured hot chocolate on my face at the hockey rink. It was peak time, and groups of parents were everywhere looking on; not a single adult spoke up on my behalf.
“For the Black and Brown kids, my partial Blackness didn’t mean a damn thing. I was considered White. I quickly learned that I was “light-skinned” or “high…