Last month, my mom and I attended the National Association of Black Journalists’ conference in New Orleans, LA. In all honesty, I haven’t been surrounded by that many African Americans since my last family reunion over ten years ago.
And, since I’m being honest, I felt slightly out of place being half African-American and not fully black at a conference meant for black professionals.
So naturally, I expressed my intimidation to my mother, someone who has helped me navigate while pressing on through my identity journey. From her, I expected to hear some wise words of encouragement or a confidence-boosting proverb—something to set me up to conquer my fears. What came out of her mouth, though—that I would have never expected to hear.
“Michelle, if you don’t want to tell anyone that I’m white, that’s fine. You don’t have to tell them you’re with me.”
Mom always told me in life, sacrifices must be made if you want to get ahead. Maybe that sacrifice is time or sleep or money. Like Denzel Whitaker said in the movie Great Debaters, “We do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do.”
Yet, before she even spoke those words, I knew disowning my mother was one thing I would never do just to have a career.
My mother has made numerous sacrifices for her children over the years, and to her, this was just one more thing she thought would be helpful in order to see me succeed. But for me, knowing my mom’s own struggle with racism in America, it hurt to hear her suggestion.
The topic of my mom’s race never came up while at the conference, and I regret that it didn’t. The fact that my mom is white has never bothered me—not once. On the contrary, I absolutely love that my mom is who she is. She enriches my life in so many ways, and I wouldn’t be who I am—mixed and all— without her.
Maybe the world still isn’t ready to accept the concept of mixed families. Or maybe parts of the world aren’t. But, since I’m still being honest, I think it’s gradually getting better. Once the media begins to recognize and portray mixed families in commercials and T.V., which is something you can see every once and a while, placing that image in the minds of the public only helps to make things better.