As a child, I, perhaps because of my father, felt a bit like an outcast because of my ethnic background. My father was the type of black man who legitimately passed for white in the '40s. My mother, pardon her racism, classified her ethnicity as being an "Oriental Half-Breed." This, depending on how many drinks she had, ranged in meaning from "I'm black, white, possibly some 'actual' African (usually Ethiopian) and some sort of Central American on my mom's side" to "my daddy, Boy Young, was white as snow, but he wasn't just white, and Tina, your grandmother, was Indian and black." Simply put, I was a hodgepodge of ethnicities, depending on when you asked my mom. However, I knew I wasn't, ethnically-speaking, just "Black."
The hatred aspect grew as I went through elementary and middle school. I mean, I was too "black" for the white kids. I came from a row house in Baltimore, I'd been engaged in some craziness growing up, and I was, in their eyes, just a black kid. No matter how much Linkin Park I listened to, no matter how many ollies I could pop, no matter how much more I knew about Cobain than my peers, I was seen as a poser (even when I legitimately liked LP, Cobain, and skating). Additionally, I didnt have the "exoticness" of some of my "biracial" peers. While my hair had "Al. B Sure" waves (thank you Kanye) and all that sort of stuff, I wasn't that fair-skinned like, say, a Steph Curry or a Maya Rudolph.
Inversely, I was too "white" for most of the black kids. My mother, she prided herself on teaching me "proper" ways to conduct myself among all walks of life. These ways usually included good manners, an expansive vocabulary, and not really using much slang, unless needed to further a discussion or job duty or something. The black children I knew, most of them also saw me as a poser. An "oreo." Someone who acted "white," whatever that meant. But, I wasn't "transracial." I didn't feel trapped more so than unwanted by any of the ethnic groups at my schools. Ironically, my mother used a boatload of slang and profanities. I guess she thought that, since she only made it to high school, if I didn't repeat her "mistakes," I could uplift our entire family.
Those are some pretty lofty expectations to put on a kid. Essentially, be the Great Mixed Hope and make all of us proud and better through association. That was even before I had to deal with "real" racism and became an activist for the betterment of human rights. Then, it got worse, to the point where I've contemplated giving it all up because I didn't want to look like a mixed-race Rachel Dolezal. I didn't want people to say "oh, he's not 'black' enough because he went to Maryland over Howard and hasn't been as active as a Shaun King." So, I began to ask myself.
Do I really hate myself?
Over the years, I've embraced the fact that I'm not traditional. And it's helped me along this twisty, twisted path of revolution. It started in my early-twenties during one of those moments of self-doubt. I remembered something my mother said to me, somewhat ironically because of the perceived expectations the family had for me.
"You're not perfect," she told me. "But, as long as you accept your imperfections, keep your heart in the right place and don't impose your will on someone who may not want or need it? You can do anything." So, I did. And, today, I embrace every aspect of what makes me me. From my "Freeway" beard to my short stature to pretty much anything that makes me Speed on the Beat. So, to those who've ever been told they weren't "X enough" or have had those moments of self-doubt or self-hatred because of their ethnic background, know that I understand and know that you are loved.