You Must Be Mixed With Something

Melanie C.

But where are you really from?
I am unfortunately and surprisingly all white. Ahem, according to 23 and Me: 33% Northern European, 45% Mediterranean, 22% Eastern European. But at first glance, I look anything but. That’s the funny thing about DNA. It plays by it’s own rules, and we have to accommodate it.
Sometimes, around white people, I felt like an undercover cop. Hearing all the racist shi*, having them say it to me at times, not knowing that on the inside I was exactly like them. Like at 10 years old, my “friends” telling me to shave my armpits or asking me why my hair is just “so dark” like I picked out the colors at birth. Or thinking that I wasn’t born in Canada. Actually, that was last week. Haha.
It was as if everyday was like this: when a substitute teacher comes in and reads out the class list- then they read out my name, I’m like “present” and they look at me like “Really? That’s YOUR name? Are you sure?” That’s what happens when I tell people of my extreme causticity. And honestly, sometimes people don’t believe me. I don’t blame them- I barely believe it myself. It’s not like my family helped- I remember the first time I got compared to a celebrity was my uncle telling me I looked just like Halle Berry. Flattering? Of course. Confusing? Also yes.
I often thought that because people mistook my race for anything or any combination under the sun, I knew what it felt like to be subjected to racism. I know understand that it is not the case: that my pretend struggle in no way mirrors the systemic oppression that never seems to end. But did it confuse and hurt me? Absolutely. Because I was mistaken for everything I became nothing. I had no idea where to fit in. I think the closest struggle I have to compare it with would be an individual of mixed raced. It was like a tug of war on both sides: not white enough to be privileged, not brown enough to own my struggle. The middle ain’t pretty.
Most of my family members look nothing like me- my sister has blue eyes and light brown hair. Some days I wished I could have gotten a different set of features, or shifted a few colors lighter in some way. But then I stop myself and remember all the great things I get to experience because of the way I look. That when I go traveling, I am almost always mistaken for a local. That I get to fit and blend in with anyone I please. That I get to remind others that we don’t need bleach- dark eyes look the best in the sunlight. At the end of the day, I am undeniably proud to look this way. I am grateful for the interesting journey I get to experience everywhere I go. It has made me see things from the other side, and I can only hope that by experiencing what I have, I can be a supporting voice for those who will rise. I know my parents named me Melanie for some cosmic reason- it comes from the word Melanin and it means “darkness”. And only in darkness can we find the stars. <3


Tweets by Michele Norris