Navigating the Black Lives Matter Movement as a Biracial Woman

Navigating the Black Lives Matter Movement as a Biracial Woman

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A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to do an IG Live with Erin Trelor from Raw Beauty Talks. We discussed my experience as a Biracial woman and how I found my voice during the Black Lives Matters Movement. We spoke a lot about my background, how I grew up, and the experience I had with race within my family and community, and how that has made me who I am today.

Flyer for Raw Beauty Talks

You can watch the IG Live Video below. It is about 25 minutes long. We had over 3,000 views in less than 24 hours. The video has been shared on several different platforms and by now has had close to 7 thousand views! I had the chance to talk about my experiences on a high level, there is only so much you can say in a 25-minute conversation. 

I decided to write this post to recap what was said in the video but to also go into a little more detail on some points I wasn’t able to cover. It has brought me so much joy knowing my story has shed light on what the Biracial and Black experience have been like for so many. To those of you who have reached out to me personally and mentioned how my story has helped them, or how my story has given them comfort in their identity journey, thank you. It is not always easy being vulnerable and having hard racial conversations, but I am glad I said “yes” to the opportunity. I did it for you all!

So let’s dive in!

My background and experience with race within my family and community 

Jacqueline as a baby

As you know, my name is Jacqueline and I am Biracial. My mother’s ancestry is Scottish and Irish, and my father is Haitian. My parents divorced when I was 3 years old. I was raised by my mother most of my life. I lived with her during the week and lived with my father on the weekends.

I did not grow up with a lot of hard struggles, and I will not paint the picture as if I did, but throughout my life, I have had challenges that I hope can shine a light on what being Biracial is like. I can only speak to my truth, and it is important to note that each Biracial person’s story is very different. Because of our shades of skin color, our hair texture, our features, where we grew up, how we were raised, etc. are all important factors that shape each Biracial person’s unique experience.

Being Biracial is a beautiful thing, but it can also be very complex. Being Biracial can feel like you are constantly straddling two worlds and at times can feel like a battle trying to find your identity in either race. 

Jacqueline wearing sunglasses

How unfair? Why should we have to CHOOSE which race we are? When I was younger, I remember thinking why can’t I select Biracial or have more than one race option when filling out paperwork? The census didn’t even start allowing multiple race options until 2000! Anyway, I digress…

Throughout my life I have been called the N-word four times to my face and who knows how many times behind my back. The first time from a stranger as a young child, in middle school from my best friend’s older sister and her friends, in high school from a stranger and then in college from another girl in a different sorority who I found wasted on the sidewalk. I was trying to help her stand up so that I could walk her home.

When I was called the N-word in middle school I was confused and couldn’t understand why someone would be so mean to me for no reason. In high school and college that confusion grew to anger. Even though I could feel the anger, I still had a hard time making sense of how I identified. If someone were to call me the N-word now, I would feel much differently. When I think back to those moments I get angry all over again.

10 Year Old Jacqueline

Growing up I always felt a little out of place because I didn’t quite fit in with the Black kids. I fit in more with the White kids, but it also felt odd because I knew I was clearly different than everyone else in my friend group. After a while, I became used to being the only Black girl in the group. To the majority of White kids, I was considered black and to the majority of Black kids, I was considered White. I knew I didn’t identify as a White girl, and I never have, I always just identified as Biracial and acknowledged both of my races and I honestly never thought about it much. However, I did feel most comfortable in White circles throughout my childhood and young adult life because that was what I was used to.

Jacqueline in the grass

In the middle of high school, I moved with my father and stepmom. My new school was in a rural area and was completely different than my previous school. Some kids even drove tractors to school! My school was very segregated, and I had a hard time fitting in. I was faced with deciding whether I would try and fit in with the Black crowd or if I was going to try and fit in with the White crowd (not the White kids who repped confederate flags, the other White kids). I didn’t really feel comfortable in either. I had some friends in both crowds, but I never really felt like I had a true place I belonged. 

Big Hair

I had one close friend in high school. Her name was Sandi and her family was from El Salvador. We are still close friends to this day, and I consider her a sister. I am forever thankful to have met her during such a huge transition in my life. She made high school bearable and without her friendship, I can’t imagine what the last three years of high school would have been like if I didn’t have her by my side.

Fast forward to college I found myself yet again in a position trying to find where I fit in most. I attended West Virginia University because it was one of the few schools I was accepted into and it was far enough, but still close enough to home. I was desperate to make friends and decided the best way to do that would be to join a sorority. 

I remember one of the Black sororities performing a step which is a choreographed dance during Orientation week. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I could see the unity they all had. I could tell they were one. All amazing strong Black women and while I was watching them I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider. 

When it came time to decide which sorority to join, I chose a majority White sorority because that was what I was most comfortable with at the time. I was used to being the only Black girl in my friend group. After college, I started to make a conscious effort to align myself with my Black side and be in more Black circles.

microaggressions and Embracing my Black Side

There were certain situations I went through after college that had me ask myself how I truly identified. Some of these experiences were when I moved from Washington, DC, to Kentucky (I lived right over the bridge from Cincinnati, OH). It was the first time I realized the world viewed me as a Black woman and the first time I was being treated as a Black woman. White women would touch my hair without permission, they would call me Sista or Girl, but wouldn’t call any other women in the workplace that. I found myself along with the only other two Black women in my office having the lowest titles and pay. I would walk into restaurants or bars and be stared at like I had five heads. It was these experiences that made me take a hard look in the mirror and ask myself how I identified.

Shortly after these types of experiences, I began to dig deep and ask myself this question. To help navigate this new journey, I started exposing myself to more Black circles whether that be through making more Black friends, attending events that were hosted by Robert’s family’s church, and by joining a Black women’s organization through work. There were times where I felt like I couldn’t relate to some of the stories and experiences I would hear, but I was still so happy and proud to be at the table with other Black women.

How I navigated everything surrounding George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter Movement  

The death of George Floyd and the numerous names before him that became a hashtag has always saddened me and made me angry, but what really hit me was an article titled “When My Beautiful Black Boy Grows from Cute to a Threat” by Georgina Dukes and that just took me over the edge. I would usually numb my feelings when situations like this come up in the news because the injustice that takes place is too hard to bear sometimes.

I recognize being able to walk away from hard racial situations is a privilege that I have because I am Biracial. I can turn it off when it gets hard.

After reading the article I couldn’t help but think of my son, Micah. He is known for his bright eyes, huge smile, and big dimples. I couldn’t help but think that one day he or my husband could end up in the same situation as George Floyd.

Family Photo

I am a strong believer and supporter of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I continue to share my story, any resources I come across, and repost the educational posts I see on all of my social media platforms. 

Some people who have known me most of my life may be surprised to see me speak out on this issue because they themselves probably associate me with being more “White.” 

But these truly are my beliefs. I am just now more comfortable and confident in sharing them. There are a few reasons why I am finally speaking out on these issues. I align more with my Black side now, and I identify as a Black woman. I am finally comfortable and confident in who I am and how I identify. I have also been encouraged by others to use my voice and my platform. I also think this is a great opportunity for me to also educate the White people in my network. I want to fight for change, and I stand with the Black community because a change needs to happen.

I don’t have all of the answers, and I don’t know everything. I am learning as well. I don’t just post things and share resources because it’s “trending” I too am educating myself along the way. It is never too late to start educating yourself and to fight for the things you believe in. All you have to do is start somewhere.

My Struggle with not feeling “Black Enough” during the Black Lives Matter Movement 

Jacqueline and Mom

Growing up, my parents never really talked with me about race. My parents are incredible people and are amazing parents, and they did what so many parents do. Which is to raise their child with a belief that everyone is the same and everyone is equal. They raised me to not see color and didn’t talk with me much about how I identified or how the world might perceive me. To them, I was just Jacqueline. 

Jacqueline and Dad

I know I need to create a culture within my immediate family that is much different than how I was raised. I feel a huge desire and responsibility to “rise to the occasion” and teach my kids about what it means to be Black and the importance of our history and culture. 

When thinking about how to go about this there have been times where I let my insecurities of “not being Black enough” get to me. Those childhood memories creep in and tell me I don’t have enough experience to talk with my children about the Black experience or Black culture because I didn’t live it. I have heard so many times throughout my life “But you’re not really Black” “ You’re a White Black girl” or an “oreo.”

Elementary School

Some of the early name-calling and treatment I received did sting, but I learned later on in life that I don’t need anyone to validate my Blackness. I think I was looking for my Blackness to be validated by the Black community, especially other Black women. 

I sometimes felt the effects of colorism in our community with me being lighter, and having a White mom, and feeling not Black enough to others. I realized as I got older that the majority of Black women aren’t like the girls at the lunch table or on the bus that I interacted with in my childhood; and that I wasted a lot of time allowing how other people identified me to stand in the way of feeling like an outsider in my own race. I never should have let other people make that decision for me.

Smiling

I also understand now why I was sometimes treated those ways, and it’s not their fault. The insecurities and the idea of “White is right ” the closer to White you look the better. These terrible beliefs have been a part of our community long before we were born. Being pitted against each other or having different advantages and experiences because of the lightness or darkness of our skin is a real thing. 

This is why I am passionate about uplifting, inspiring, and connecting women now as an adult.

I now know that I need to do what I believe is right and best for my family. And I am capable of discussing these topics even though my upbringing may have been different than others. At the end of the day, I still have the same fears that all Black women have when it comes to their significant other, son, or brother, or friend and that is the fear that our Black men and boys may not come home to us.

Creating a Culture Within my Immediate Family

As the wife of a Black man and a mom to a little Black boy and soon to be a little Black girl I know I need to address the race topic sooner rather than later. I know there will be a day when my husband and I will need to have “the talk” with our kids. 

Robert and Micah

I will need to tell them that people aren’t viewed and treated the same way. I know I will talk about the importance of race and how that may affect them as they grow up. I hope our experiences and our teachings will help them navigate how they see themselves and how they show up and navigate the ugly part of this world.

Robert has taught me so much about Black culture and what his experience has been like growing up in a Black family. I am so glad our kids will have him as a resource.

I have a handful of Black moms who I trust that I know I can go to when the time comes to have those difficult conversations with my kids. There will always be this fear of wanting to equip my kids with the tools that they need to help them navigate the ugly part of this world. 

Robert and Micah

Robert and I know we will discuss the things our kids learn in school and take them a step further and give it more context at home. We know we will encourage them to always be comfortable in their skin, to always tell them how strong and smart they are, and how beautiful their hair and skin is. To show them other strong successful public figures who look like them whether that be Tiger Woods and telling Micah that he is the best golfer in the world, or telling Miri that Gabby Douglas and Simon Biles are the best gymnasts. And constantly making sure there is representation and diversity around them throughout their lives.

How I Identify

Jacqueline Smiling

At 30 years old, I can confidently say that while I do identify with being Biracial I also identify with being a Black woman. I don’t consider claiming to be a Black woman as denying my White side because I know it is in my blood. I love my White side and family, but the world does view me as Black and at this point in my life I align more closely with the Black community. I am loved and was raised by both races, and that has made me who I am today. 

My message to people struggling with their racial identity 

Jacqueline Smiling

It is okay if you haven’t figured out how you identify yet. Know that you don’t have to choose a side. Know that it is ok to acknowledge both sides and study the history of both of your cultures. Just don’t let someone else make the narrative for you. Take the time to figure out your own identity. There is power in understanding who you are. There is no rush, people get there in different times in their life, but don’t shy away from it because when you have that clarity it can make you feel so free.

My message to people who want to know how to help the Black community and people of color

Please don’t feel like you have to be perfect in all of this. A lot of White women have reached out to me after my post A Wife and Mother to Black Males in America and have offer support to me and my family. Many told me they don’t know what to say and that they want to help, but feel so ignorant when it comes to this topic. Many said they don’t have any Black people they are close to. That is okay. Black people will never shame you for wanting to stand with us. Just take the time to educate yourselves and your families, even those family members who may not agree with you, speak up when you see something wrong, read books, watch documentaries, peacefully protest, sign petitions, and vote with both the majority and minority in mind. And most importantly remember to always keep this momentum going.

Thank you for your time.

Xoxo,

Jacqueline



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