I’m Myriam! I am a 16 year old biracial American. My mom is white and my dad is from the motherland, Mauritania, which is a west African country. I absolutely love both sides of my culture and try to embrace them both equally. I grew up in Ohio, and I am currently a sophomore in high school. Being mixed race is a part of my identity which I take a lot of pride in, however it wasn’t always this way. I identify as a black American, however if you were to ask me personally, I’d explain my mixed race background.
What are race relations like where you are living? Do you feel genuinely accepted as a mixed race person?
Living in a predominantly white area my whole life, the topic of race wasn’t always easy to talk about, and in some cases it still isn’t. People feel awkward when you bring it up, in my opinion. However, I do feel genuinely accepted as a mixed person. The world is changing so much and it’s not uncommon to be of more than one race in today’s world.
I notice a lot of mixed race people say their parents did not discuss their racial identity with them growing up. Did your parents openly discuss race and mixed race issues with you?
Honestly, living with my mom growing up, she never mentioned race. The first time I remember it being brought up was at a therapy session. The therapist asked if I ever felt different because of my skin color. My mother was extremely annoyed. After this, I moved in with my dad and he only talked about race when I brought it up, but he was so much more understanding than my mom. I felt like my mother always tried to hide the black side of me, or erase it. She didn’t want to admit it was a part of me.
Do you feel you have been affected by any racial stereotypes?
Of course. When you grow up in an area where everyone is white, people look at you like you’re the black sheep, and you are. Thus meaning, being a 16 year old woman of color, I am automatically put into this box when I meet people. I have to try a little harder than my peers to prove to people who I am, and that I am not just a statistic or a stereotype. It’s exhausting.
Do you feel more connected to a particular part of your racial/ cultural identity? Has this changed over time?
Ultimately, yes. I feel more connected to my African roots and the American black culture. I never used to feel like this. And in some ways, I’m still working on feeling accepted. Feeling whole.
Do you celebrate/ honour your mixed race identity in any specific ways?
I love going to African parties with my dad, and I love dancing and experiencing the culture with my cousins. I also love talking about my mixed race identity, whether it be in poetry or essays for school. I am so proud of it.
How do you feel about the representation of mixed race people in the media?
It’s definitely gotten better. I see more actresses and models who appear to be mixed race everywhere. However, the concept is still not comfortably talked about. If you see a mixed actress or actor on TV, the odds are that they have two fully black parents. People, in my opinion, still aren’t comfortable with the idea of interracial marriages and families.
Does race frequently play a role in your life or are there times when you think of it more than others?
I don’t mean to, but I am constantly thinking of it, especially at school where I am consciously noticing how different I am from others around me whether they are white or black. I am somehow always different-looking. However, it doesn’t bother me like it used to. I see it as neutral, rather than as an advantage or disadvantage.
Has being mixed race affected your dating experiences and preferences?
Sort of. When I was younger and wasn’t as aware of my biracial identity, I saw myself more attracted to white men. Although I am still attracted to people of all races, I find that I now prefer men who are from ethnic minorities. I feel like they could possibly understand me and how I feel more. My boyfriend is actually Persian and Lebanese, and he has played a huge part in me being comfortable with all parts of my background and all of its uniqueness.
Who are your personal idols? Do they tend to be from the same racial background as you (mixed race)/ people of all different races or monoracial people from the different racial groups that make up your heritage?
I absolutely idolize Halle Berry, Alicia Keys, Zendaya, Viola Davis, Aaliyah and countless others. The people I tend to idolize are of mixed race background and a few are monoracial. I just look up to women and people who inspire me to love myself for the way I was made, and don’t make me feel like I have to conform to anything or look like/be something that I’m not.
Do you feel more comfortable within certain racial groups? If so, which groups and why?
I feel comfortable in all racial groups. It just depends on the people honestly. I know some white people who make me feel comfortable and I know some black people who make me feel comfortable. It’s the same with Mexicans even, Indians, Africans… I start to feel uncomfortable when the people that I’m with, no matter what their race is, start to feel better or superior to me because maybe they are monoracial, or they feel more entitled to who they are, resulting in them feeling more important than me. I hate that feeling. My best friend is mixed with Mexican but is white passing, and I feel very comfortable around her. I also feel very comfortable with my boyfriend. Sometimes I find more comfort in them than I do in my own family, either the white side or the black side.
Mixed race perspectives are often marginalized or completely ignored in discussions on race. Do you have any thoughts/ feelings about this?
We need to talk about it. We need to shine the light on it. I know so many mixed race little girls especially who felt exactly like I did growing up. They don’t know who they are, or how to find it. As a result, the try to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, however they can never meet them. It’s a frustrating journey that is not talked about even nearly enough.
What would like the future to look like for people of mixed race heritage?
I want mixed race heritage to continue to spread. It’s a beautiful thing and it’s a wonderful identity to have, once you discover it and how to be comfortable with it. There should be no holding back when it comes to embracing mixed race heritage, just because it is not monoracial heritage.
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