Another reason I like the term mulatto is because it feels more accurate. “Mixed-race” implies I am a little bit of two different things, that I have some black characteristics and some white ones, that sometimes I live a black experience and sometimes I live a white experience. But the truth is, I feel I have a racial-experience all my own. For me, there is always a pull, a tension, a question. I fit into neither group perfectly, and I have experiences unique to someone who doesn’t sort neatly into the boxes society wants me to be in. I’m just too ambiguous looking.
But even when people know my mix, it doesn’t mean anything. Race is subjective. My “blackness” is subjective. I am the “blackest” of my maternal cousins but the “whitest” of my paternal cousins. I grew up in Alberta with the white side of the family, while all my black family live in Ontario. I grew up feeling culturally white internally, while being viewed by others in my primary environment as exotic and ethnic externally. That is probably why, before discovering the usefulness of “the game” I would instinctively answer the “what are you” question with “half-black”, and not “half-white.” The whiteness felt implied.
Like many people, my friends (the vast majority who are white) tend to hang out with people in their own racial group, and I am their only “black” friend. Thus, I end up being the only blackness that many of my friends know, which makes me feel responsible to represent a culture that I wasn’t raised in and I know very little about. As a teen, I felt like I was missing out on “being black,” whatever that means, by living a country apart from the side of the family which was, yet I felt like I was the token black-friend that had to either hold up or debunk black stereotypes that I was mostly confused about.
At the same time, because I am ethnically ambiguous, sometimes I experience a form of white guilt when I am in a position to speak up about black rights. I’m often uncomfortable while attending protests or discussion groups, feeling like those who have a more “authentic black experience” should be speaking, while I should silently support like a white ally might do. I am neither white enough to be white or black enough to be black.
So, until I learn how to be more black, or more white, or more mulatto, I will continue to play the Guess My Ethnicity game. Figuring out exactly how I feel about my race, and the struggle between how I view myself and how others view me, can be difficult. I have a much harder time defining myself than others seem to have defining me. So for now, I’ll keep polling people, looking for clues.