Mixed Race or Mixed Heritage: A Conversation in Racial Differences

Words by Tori Bachan

The other day I was cruising down my Facebook feed and NPR posted this awesome article, Holding Onto The Other Half of ‘Mixed-Race. The article was prompted by an online campaign entitled “The Race Card Project”. This article was fantastic. The mother of the two mixed raced boys brought up a very important personal battle of the idea of preserving both sides of their heritage. While the mother only knows so much (because she herself is not of a mixed race background), I can tell you personally of my experiences with the personal development of having to deal with it from birth until now.

I am half Indian (my father is from Trinidad and Tobago and of Indian decent) and I am half Caucasian (my mother is of Scandinavian decent). My dad is clearly a darker man and my mom is a very fair, light haired woman. Coming from Charleston, South Carolina there were never lots of “other” kids like me. Until I was about 16, I always longed to have the blonde hair, fair skin and light eyes like my mother. BUT this makes me, well- me. I am tall (taller than the average- 5’8 flat and about 6’0 in heels) with very dark brown hair, very dark brown eyes and olive colored skin tone. This makes me out to be very ambiguous looking.

Tori B Photo 1

My mom aka total babe.

People generally assume I am whatever they think I am. When I was living in New York I got a lot of Brazilian or Italian and a sprinkle of Greek. In Los Angeles, I overwhelmingly get anything of Hispanic descent or Armenian. Usually, when I get the questions I try to purposely turn it into a dialogue of some sort. We may be in 2013 but the racial discussion of Mixed Race people is still very new. For women, it has turned into an “exotic” thing. People find it interesting because its “hot.” Usually, the conversations always turn into something more about my appearance and less about the fact that I am lucky enough to have two very distinct heritages. I get a lot of the “mixed women are the most beautiful” or the most common, “your hair is incredible.” Yet, this was not always the case. Growing up, I had a pretty intense identity crisis.

Tori B Photo 2

My dad- the original hipster.

My earliest and clearest memories of not being okay with my complexion started in pre-school. Kids that young only repeat what they hear from their parents. Many times I was badgered and asked if I was adopted and why I did not look anything like my mother. I hated it. I questioned myself and what I looked like constantly. I was much darker as a child than I am as an adult and the things kids would say were just never okay.

To aid in my identity crisis, in the early days of the interwebs, my parents let me build my own Barbie because, unlike today where there are different ethnic Barbies, almost all of my Barbies were blonde and white or the few black Barbies; while I finally was able to get a brunette Barbie, it took a long time. I built my very own “Victoria made for Victoria” Barbie with olive skin and long dark brown hair and dark eyes. She even rocked a badass shirt and some jeans. In retrospect, who knew I basically designed what adult Victoria would end up being like. haha.

While clearly our looks are not all that matter in life, looking “different” in a world of sameness at a very young age makes you question much more about yourself than just your appearance, race, or beauty. In a weird sense it makes you question your worth. Now, as an adult I see things much differently, but 7 year old Tori, not so much.

Nowadays race is ambiguous and many of us mixed kids are put into a box about deciding which race we should identify with. It is not that cut and dry- we can’t just pick because we are a melting pot of two (or more) races. We should be able to honor both sides. The mom in the above mentioned article spoke on the same problems she and her sons encountered. Instead, they allude to an idea of mixed heritage. I love that. We are more than our skin tone or “race”, we are people of two or more (generally speaking) distinctively different heritages. That’s something I know is important to me and that I think most other mixed race people will agree. STOP MAKING US PICK ONE. We are more than one and we are proud to be more than one. Get out of the box and let us be the mixed people we are. HELLO IT IS 2014.

Tori B Photo 3

Killing those family photos in Hawaii

I hope for the future of America that these people that still hold so much hatred for those of other races start looking at themselves as the problem and not those who are “different.” The make up of America changes daily and, similarly to how we update our technology every year (come on we all know those people who buy the new iPhone every time they come out), maybe we should look at updating our views regularly.

People are people; our race or skin tone does not create everything about us. We’re individuals with different life experiences. Maybe my struggles have helped me to be more open-minded than that of my counterparts, who knows. Either way every year is a step in the right direction. Hopefully one day my future daughter, if she looks like me or not, won’t feel insecure because of her features or looks. We all have our experiences that make us who we are and we need to realize and appreciate that.

Keep up with Tori on Twitter and Instagram and check out her blog.

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