I stare longingly at others like me

Mary Ann Paris
Philadelphia, PA

Except for my brother, there were never any children who looked like me. I am black and white, more specifically Black, Jewish, German, Irish, Italian and polish and my brother and I have European features. We grew up in a segregated part of Philadelphia among black children. They never wanted to play with us, made us inferior with their words like “Light bright, damned near white”. As we grew older, my white friends would ‘compliment’ me by saying, “You know, you look white!”

My brother told his first wife’s father that he was Italian because she was from deep in the south and her father and brothers were Klansmen. I was twenty-seven years old before I saw another woman who shared my coloring, my features, parents of opposite races. I stared, so hard for so long, memorizing her features and wondering, as she met my gaze if she’d walked the same path I had. If she were a victim of circumstance. Since then, I’ve seen several inter or bi-racial adults and children, but the experience of recognition.

That “Wow, someone like me.” hasn’t faded and I always stare, always wonder what road they’ve crossed to get where they are. When I was able to check off ‘bi-racial” for the first time, I cried. For once I didn’t have to choose. I was allowed by the government just to be me. A person of unknown origin who doesn’t have to shun an entire side of her family just to maintain the illusion of human. When I found out our president was of mixed heritage, I cried again, “finally”, I thought, “people like me are ‘good enough’. Praise the Lord.” and then when I heard all the naysaying and race bashing, inter race bashing, I had to turn a blind eye or risk sinking into a depression. The nation debating his race was debating and discrediting mine.

Maybe one day in my life, the sight of one like me will be such a common occurrence that I will be able to stop staring. Maybe one day the census paper won’t have a race box at all. That is my prayer.


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