None of the Above.
Whenver I fill out a form for some "authority", when the questions naturally come to "what I am", it seems to all boil down to color. When I was younger, say in the late 70's, "Black" was still an official category, one that I was forced to shade in with my number 2 lest uncomfortable questions be directed towards me. Everyone could see that I wasn't "White", everyone could quickly determine for themselves what they though my place in life should be, and everyone was absolutely wrong.
Example. I would go to the Food Farm in El Cerrito - the one that Lucky killed and morphed into its own image - with my mother when she still did most of the food shopping. Looking for good apples, begging for popsicles, tugging on her arm for a quarter to play Donkey Kong Jr. or Phoenix, there would always be that peculiar double take from someone, somewhere, subtle enough that I can only truly identify it in retrospect. The "What are you doing with someone else's child?" frown.
Excuse me. This is my mother. I am her son. Can't you see her in my hair, the way that I walk along side? Or maybe you can't see past the "difference", the color, what you term "black" but it's not, I'm not.
The midnight sky is black. Closets are black. I'm brown.
Wait a minute. Here's another example. My best friend until late elementary school - Demond - lived basically across the street from me. Besides spending an inordinate amount of time with his family, and he mine, there were occasions when I would go somewhere with his parents, to buy something or whatever. One time, we went to a company picnic at his father's job, and during the festivities the same looks were directed towards me, but in an entirely different way. The "Look at that beautiful hair! (must be a friend of the family)" smile. I was too "light" to be anything else but mixed, to diffuse to be mistaken by strangers to be a part of his clan, no matter how close we appeared.
O.K. My hair may be nice to grab at. My skin may take on a complicated hue. But it's just as bad to exclude me from being "white" as it is to pigeon-hole me into "black, only less so than others". Make up your mind. Make up a word. Name me, I dare you.
Mixed. Mulatto. You know. One of those....people.
Thanks for the reassuring humanification at the end there, for a second I though you were going to objectify me, or, better yet, to ask for a tissue sample. Fine. Let's satify the insanely curious, those who wallow in my otherness.
When I was in elementary school, I often used to make cake frosting with my mother. It always started out white, but every once in a while the recipe called for an elaboration. So I would fetch the viles of food covering, the one's at the bottom right corner of the cabinet, where I could reach without a chair, and choose my weapon.
What do you get when you add one drop of coloring - just one drop, mind you - to the powered sugar? Depends on the color, you say, but it sure isn't white anymore.
Equivalent story. I've always loved milk. Up until fairly recently, I always drank 2%, because anything stronger tasted like someone put a stick of butter into the carton when I wasn't looking, and anything weaker tasted like milky water. Even better than milk was the chocolate kind, the concoction you make with spoon after spoon of light brown powder - which traditionally comes in a metal, rounded-corner box with a lid that you have to pry off with your spoon tip.
How many spoonfulls of chocolate does it take to make the perfect glass of chocolate milk? Don't know until I taste it, you say, but if you can still see the milk, add another spoonfull.
I love light green frosting. The chocolate milk at my elementary school tasted like paint.
I can always tell when I get dirt under my fingernails because it's darker than my fingertips. That, and the taste when I pick popcorn out of my teeth.
To make matters clearer. One birthday party I had was held at Burger King, a couple of years after it opened. We got a tour of the kitchen, and when we passed by the freezer everyone noticed my store-bought birthday cake, except for me. It had Disney characters on it; I remember sucking the frosting off of Donald's webbed feet. In the Polaroid some staff member took of me in front of the cake, my face is as red at a beet. Either I was embarrassed by the paper crown I had on and the enormity of the affair itself, or it was my Native American blood showing through.
Did I mention that when I used to play little league - center field, mostly - I used to stare at the clouds, imagining myself among them, floating forever. All of this sky watching darkened my face a bit, but I never remember getting a sunburn.
Almost done. Until the end of High School I used to write my stories in pencil exclusively. I also used to draw a bunch, but I hated to ink in my work. There's something about the feel of graphite hitting paper, the way it blurs the line ever so slightly as you draw, the salty-bitter taste that the point makes as you chew on it, a little bit of the wood and yellow paint chips adding necessary seasoning. A blank piece of white paper was something to make airplanes out of; a piece of white paper with pen all over it was homework or a test; a piece of white paper with one tiny pencil mark on it was something to contemplate - do you add another mark, or reach for the eraser?
When I was younger I used to turn the color off of my TV set, because it invariably added interest. That is, until one day when my father told me to stop. You never know, it might get stuck that way. I frowned. I love shades of gray.
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