By Sophia Porter | Guest Writer
Sophia Porter is one of the original founders of Intersected, and she now contributes as a guest writer. Born and raised in Chicago, she has a passion for all things related to race, equity, and basketball. Since college, she has worked in a corporate management firm, but the issues of race, opportunity, and community remain as close to her heart as ever.
I celebrate Christmas twice. The first celebration is five minutes away at my aunt and uncle’s house in Bronzeville, one of Chicago’s historic neighborhoods on the city’s Southside. R&B offers a smooth, steady backdrop to the laughter that often erupts and fills the room. Gumbo and greens are always on the menu. My soul is fed here.
The second celebration takes place in northern Iowa, 20 miles south of the Minnesota border. Cows and pigs outnumber people by the hundreds — maybe thousands — and the December wind coming off the plains puts any Chicago “cooler by the lake” weather to shame. But inside, there’s an undeniable warmth from hourlong card games with chili and Velveeta grilled cheese sandwiches.
I exist and find home in both of these places, and there are pieces of me in each. But is there a whole? I don’t think I’ve found it yet.
Christmas illuminates the deep contrasts that make up my biracial identity. I am from and love both places, though the combination of the two creates something that doesn’t quite fit anywhere else. This is a thought I vocalize rarely and only write about occasionally yet ponder constantly.
Historically, This Tension Makes Sense
Other people’s stories about being biracial are finally starting to bubble to the surface. This gives me comfort. Scholarship and storytelling on the subject are increasing, but growing up, I rarely heard anyone outside my family talk about it. Only recently have these stories of biracial American identity begun to be widely shared.
Multiracial children have been around since the birth of our nation, but legal interracial marriage is still new. From the late 1600s to the late 1900s, the United States, along with many other counties, spent a great amount of time and energy preventing interracial marriages through numerous laws against miscegenation.
In 1948, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibited limitations on the right to marry due to race. The U.S. Supreme Court did not fully remove all prohibitions until 1967 in Loving v. Commonwealth of VA, which found that any individual could marry any person of another race and their choice could not be infringed upon by the state. Twenty-four years later, my parents married on February 16, 1991.
Noting Nuances and Choosing Sides
My mom characterizes her interracial marriage as “the minority inside the minority.” My mom is Black, my dad is white, and their racial-gender subgroup represents less than half of Black-white interracial marriages in America.
According to U.S. Census Data from 1990, taken close to when my parents wed, there were approximately 150,000 interracial marriages between Black men and white women, while there were only 61,000 marriages between white men and Black women.
Interracial marriages made up 3% of all American marriages in 1990 and more than doubles in 2010 to 7%, but the white men and Black women subgroup continues to be the minority.
While my parents represent a fairly uncommon couple, the quest to discover racial identity for biracial children pervades almost all mixed families. The idea of biracial children needing to “choose” an identity is mentioned in the conclusion of nearly every book on interracial marriage and biracial children in America.
This phenomenon seems to stem from America’s need to categorize people as either Black or white. I chose multiple races on a standardized form for the first time when I applied to college. The adage “too Black for the white kids, too white for the Black kids” made it difficult to choose just one racial identity anyway.
My ability to pass for just one of these identities or to present as the other through a quick change in appearance and what I choose to amplify about my experience doesn’t make it any easier either.
Where I Stand
My own jury is still out on where I fit. In a time when everything is increasingly divisive and polarized, it feels necessary to choose. Everything seems to be a zero sum game. But through my families, experience, and search for where exactly I fit, I have learned to empathize. And growing empathy is a necessary step to take in order for equity to materialize.
When empathizing, no persuasion or convincing is necessary.
As we wait expectantly for the coming of Christ on Christmas, may we imitate his love, compassion, and empathy. Jesus wept, and the Apostle Paul encourages us to weep with those who weep because we have a Great High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Let us develop this stance as we pursue equity ourselves.