What it Means to be Mixed Race During the Fight for Black Lives

What it Means to be Mixed Race During the Fight for Black Lives

For Harriet

Shannon Luders-Manuel

When I talk about my family culture, I’m mixed. When I talk about racism, I’m black. When Trayvon Martin was shot for wearing a hoodie, I was black. When Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes on the street, I was black. When Sandra Bland was arrested for failing to turn on her blinker, I was black. When churchgoers were shot for being black, I was black.

I was raised by the white side of my family, in mostly white areas. I had white friends most of my life, not because of any type of preference, but because that’s who was around. I grew up Eastern European folk dancing in the Santa Cruz Mountains with my family. I had plum pudding at Christmas, and my first celebrity crush was Neil Patrick Harris. During both childhood and adulthood, I’ve had others try to define me the way they wanted to, which varied depending on who was doing the defining. My father said mixed isn’t whole. A black woman told me I wasn’t black. A white best friend said she didn’t see me as black. The grandmother of another white friend asked why she was hanging around with a black girl. As I’ve gotten older, the labeling hasn’t stopped, but my self-identity has gotten stronger. Most of the time I see myself as mixed, but when I see black men and women brutalized or killed for breathing while black, I’m black, and proudly, viscerally so…

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