The Blue Eyes of a Black Nationalist

The Blue Eyes of a Black Nationalist

The Secret History of America: Writings and Revelations from an American Studies Seminar at UC Berkeley

Maliq Hunsberger

When I was four years old, I came home from preschool and said to my mother, “they think I’m one of the white kids.” To their credit, I have always looked like one of the white kids. Unfortunately for those not interested in giving evidence to the proverb about books and their covers, my appearance is phenotypically misleading.

My mother is white and my father is Black. My older brother Miles looks, as he describes it, “ambiguously brown.” I on the other hand look unambiguously white. And not just in the way you tell your lightskinned friend he looks white. But invisible to the police, pre-Tiger Woods golf course, Applebee’s in the suburbs white.

The way I look has allowed me to occupy a space of “accessible Blackness” to many of my white peers. In other words, I have Black blood but not Black skin, meaning I can be seen as interesting but not scary. This has also functioned as my greatest tool of influence. I often find myself in discussions around race that I know my father, brother, or anyone visibly non-white are not included in. This is because I evoke much of the white fascination directed toward Black communities without donning the Black skin that the white world has been taught to fear so strongly. In this space I am able to “be a part of” genuine conversations about cultural appropriation, white privilege, racial common sense, etc. within white spaces because I pass so easily. These conversations have become taboo in multiracial spaces for fear of upsetting the colorblind “politically correct” balance that has pushed both straightforward racism and productive conversation underground. Unfortunately I have also become the acceptable target of much of that pent up racism that can no longer be expressed explicitly to those identifiably Black. It is this constant grappling of placement, membership, and authenticity that have provided my greatest privileges and contributed to my strongest feelings of isolation.

It is an odd feeling to be one race at the beginning of a conversation and another by the end…

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