Mixed-race teen in the middle: who will she choose?

Mixed-race teen in the middle: who will she choose?

Tampa Bay Times
St. Petersburg, Florida

Leonora LaPeter Anton, Times Staff Writer

Her dark eyes scanned the fluorescent-lit lunchroom, locking onto her friends in the center of the chaos. Her thoughts sprayed in many directions: the upcoming eighth-grade formal, a surprisingly bad grade she recently got on an English paper, her role in the school play.

She passed a table full of white girls and one of them high-fived her. She passed a table full of white boys and one of them called her name. She arrived at a table full of black girls — the table where she sits almost every day. As she set her notebook down, one of her best girlfriends ignored her and moved to another table.

Asianna Williams, 14, wanted to ignore the drama. She is a light-skinned mixed-race girl trying to discover who she is in a society that still carves up territory by race. Nowhere was this more evident than in the lunchroom at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School. Table after table, as far as the eye could see, white faces congregated around one table, black faces around another.

Asianna’s father is black and her mother is white. Years ago, this might have relegated her to a no-man’s land, not fully welcomed by either blacks or whites. Now, thanks in part to sheer numbers (last year, there were 42 other mixed-race students at Thurgood Marshall), Asianna doesn’t feel ostracism. But she does feel pressure.

Pressure to choose black kids. Pressure to choose white kids. Like the tables in the lunchroom, nearly everything Asianna does — and she does a lot of things — comes with an overlay of race.

But what if you were someone who didn’t want to choose?…

…There have always been people of mixed race in American society. Cultural taboos and prejudice often meant they simply identified themselves as black, or if their skin was sufficiently light-colored, tried to pass as white…

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