A Canadian’s Perspective On The American Multiracial Experience

A Canadian’s Perspective On The American Multiracial Experience

The Oberlin Review
Oberlin, Ohio

Zach Bayfield

Before coming to Oberlin [College], my racial identity was something I rarely reflected on. My mother is a fifth-generation Canadian with entirely European ancestry. My father was born in Jamaica to an English father and a Jamaican mother. The Afro-Caribbean side of my ancestry was discussed comfortably in my family, and I felt no pressure to identify with one race over the other. Regardless of who I surrounded myself with or what activities I was engaging in, I felt like my identity was understood.

When I first came to Oberlin, my identity suddenly became more contentious. I remember my freshman year, I was eating lunch in Stevenson Dining Hall when one of my Black teammates asked me, “What are you?” I explained my genealogy in an abbreviated version of the previous paragraph, and his response was, “So you’re Black, right?” I was confused and taken aback by this statement. How could I identify as Black when I’ve never experienced racism directly? Why do I have to identify as a particular race? Why can’t I just be me?…

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