It's Not So Black & White: mixed-race experiences (Sabrina)

This blog post series features three mixed-race people with completely different racial and nationality backgrounds and who share their accounts of what it is like to be mixed-race: Sabrina, Henrique, and Alicia. First up, we have:


Sabrina


Hi, my name is Sabrina! I was born and raised in Colorado, but I’m the first generation in the US on my mother’s side.

What is your racial mix?

I am half Indian and half white.


Do you feel connected to one or some more than the other(s)?

It’s definitely interesting in that, having been so often perceived as white (I “look pretty white” and my name is from my white side), I definitely feel that I almost have to overcompensate and emphasize the fact that I am also Indian. I think, for that reason, I identify more with being Indian in order to not lose touch with that side of me given that I live in America and I’ve grown up in very white communities. The fact that people have tried to convince me that I’m basically white because I’m whitewashed has definitely corroborated that I need to stay in touch with my Indian side.


Are there any challenges that come with being mixed-race?

We’re often forgotten. We’re severely underrepresented in things like media and that translates to people undermining our ability to be mixed in real life. It’s like society doesn’t see us that often, so when they do, they assume that you have to fit into one racial category or the other. They don’t understand how people can be two races, cultures, belief systems in one. Unfortunately, of that 6.9%, 55% of mixed race adults have reported being subject to racist slurs or jokes because of their background. It’s for this reason that I am so glad to see that the voices of mixed-race kids and adults are being brought into the global conversation about race relations with law enforcement and in society.


What do you like about being mixed-race?

I think being mixed gives us an extremely unique perspective on the world since we essentially grow up in two different worlds. We understand and face the struggles that both of our respective races go through, and I believe that makes us far more accepting and open because we have to practice accepting various views on life our entires lives.


Can you tell us something you find interesting about your heritage or racial mixes?

The interesting thing about Indian culture is that there’s no singular “Indian culture”. there are over 3,000 recognized “Indian” languages and this stems from something called regional fragmentation. basically, the number of people living in India, it’s geographical size, and it’s geographical features made it so that many different subgroups formed. There are the Gujaratis, Tamils, Kashmiris (but that one's controversial), etc. My family is Malyali, so we’re from the southern tip of India. My family’s language is Malayalam which I can understand little parts of once I’ve been around it for a while, but I, unfortunately, was never taught it.


My great grandfather was like a governor/mayor of the specific village where my family home is. The village is called Palakkad and it’s about two hours out of Kochi. This means our family name is still well known there. Interestingly enough, my last name should be Vattakart because our last names actually follow a matriarchal lineage, but being born in the states, I ended up with my father’s last name.


My last name comes from Essex and my family likely came from Germany.


Did you grow up in a diverse area?

Not particularly. My current neighborhood is majority white. Mixed kids at my school make up less than 2% of all students.


Have you experienced racism from people of a race with which you identify?

I’m lucky to say that I haven’t faced blatant racism. I’ve mostly faced erasure of my Indian culture. However, my cousin who’s half Indian/half German has been called the n-word because he has darker skin than most of his peers.


What about relationships? Do you and your partner speak about all your heritages?

I’m still young, so I’ve only been in one relationship. He was admittedly the epitome of white being that he was Mormon. Surprisingly, he was very accepting of my culture, and I had some interesting conversations with him and his family about being mixed race. We butt heads on many political and social issues, but my background was never one of them. However going forward, I know that I’ll need someone who is accepting of me being mixed race and who’s willing to learn about what that means.


Have you always identified with both or all your racial backgrounds?

I think that I’ve actually identified as mixed-race more than anything. I’ve always been vocal about being half Indian, but I’ve also tried to stress the idea that I have TWO racial backgrounds.


Do your friends accept you for all of you?

Yes! I have a running joke that my friends and I should be photographed for textbook covers because my friend groups are very diverse. However, I do have one friend, I used to call him my big brother and he called me “whitewashed” and said that I was “basically white” all the time. I told him to stop and he did a bit, but eventually, he continued saying those statements. Especially with this movement and as I was writing the post that made you initially reach out to me, I realized how problematic that was. I reached out once and he didn’t seem to happy to hear from me, so I haven’t really talked to him in a while.


Has anyone ever said you sound more (insert race)?

All the time! People think or assume that I’m just white. However, I also do get people telling me often that they could tell that I was mixed, they just didn’t know with what. People also frequently think that I’m Latina which I find interesting.


Do you feel represented in the media?

Whenever I talk about how mixed kids are represented in media, I always use my “Disney princess example.” When I was a kid, my two favorite Disney princesses were Jasmine and Belle because I looked most like Belle, but Jasmine was the princess that was the closest to representing my heritage. I could never narrow down which princess was my favorite because I saw myself in both of them. We mixed kids are heavily underrepresented in media and it’s hard for us to find characters that we can look up to or see ourselves in because they’re so rare.


As I’ve grown up, I’ve become used to being underrepresented in society. We biracial babies are still pretty rare. Only 6.9% of the adult population in the US is estimated to be multiracial according to the Pew Research Center. For the first time in history, I feel like I am seeing myself represented by these biracial activists since we are so often forgotten. Mixed kids, we will continue fighting until we, our friends, and our families are able to live without fear of being hurt because of the color of their skin. We will use our unique perspectives to bring people from all walks of life together as we have done our entire lives. Stay powerful.


Has anyone ever asked you anything you find offensive?

I’ve had countless microaggressions directed towards me. When I tell people that I’m half Indian, I often get questions like, “are you vegetarian?” or “what’s your favorite Indian restaurant?” These questions obviously aren’t blatantly offensive, however, they make it so apparent that people view me being Indian as me being some foreign entity. They latch onto things like food because they have no concept about anything Indian, but they feel that they have to overcompensate for this lack of knowledge by latching onto stereotypes like “Indian food is so good!” We all know that Indian food is great, but either broaden your knowledge of different cultures so that you don’t fall back onto cultural stereotypes or just say “oh, that’s cool!” and move on.


Is there anything else you'd like to add or share?

Don't forget us, mixed kids. I've shared a post to my Instagram with my thoughts and experiences as a mixed-race person: @SabrinaWicker



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