I’m telling my story, our stories, the ones I don’t see. The ones that aren’t in the myriad rainbow family portraits or blog posts about things mixed people are sick of hearing. Or, in Nat. Geo’s shots of The Exotic Other, that while compelling to look at, remain silent and out of reach. Nowhere do I see the love at first site that brought me into being, or the tenacious struggle for identity that transcends every label the world keeps trying to slap onto me like a sticker. So I drive, across the country, to hear and recount the untold mixed race experience in America. The experience that’s about humanity.

I am reticent to proclaim that I am writing about race because at its core, that is not what this is about. It is about love, identity and the deep need we all have to belong and feel like we matter. But of course this is about race, that unavoidable, cancer-like construct that’s woven into the DNA of this country, justifying everything from microaggression to unspeakable injustice.

There are days I want to hate all white people, for their privilege, for the luxury of never feeling the burden of Other, or having to worry if their fathers or brothers will make it home, for leeway and second chances.

But my mother is white. Her alabaster breast kept me alive. Her milky hands frequently turned sore and red as she lovingly detangled my hair. Her body worked tirelessly for 42 years from midnight to 8am so my brother and I could go to fancy schools with clothes on our backs. So I can’t hate white people.

A picture of my Mom on the left.
A picture of my Mom on the left.

Like so many mixed kids, I have to check myself day in and day out. Like a blessing and a curse, I must acknowledge the pain and suffering caused by this oppressive system and many of the white people within it while allowing the anger and overwhelming sadness to arise each time I glance at a news feed. All the while though keeping space for love and empathy because I came from a white womb.

My very existence prevents me from falling into the lazy trap of simple hate.

It forces me to live the questions, explore the perspectives and hear the stories. The mixed experience is living proof that life is magnificent in color.

The truth is, none of us fit neatly into labels. Mixed or not. Labels are useful, sure, they give us a sense of order, something our brains crave because we can’t deal with chaos. But the magic lies where the boundaries blur, beyond the narrow definitions of blackness, whiteness, straightness, gayness, vegetarian, athlete, woman, man and everything else. We are all of those things yet none of them. And we change. Before I was two years old strangers would ask my mom if I was boy because she hadn’t pierced my ears. So for a time, Abby, was a black boy being pushed around by a white nanny. Then my hair grew and I became a black girl to some, a mixed girl to others, a chubby, awkward girl to myself and the tall girl to the short girls in kindergarten. I was straight, then one year I was gay because I fell in love with a woman and moved in with her. What am I now? What happens if I stop holding so tightly to who I think I am or to what others say I should be? Might the world get bigger? Might I see myself in you?

PM Messages is a weekly interactive series in partnership with Perfectly Mixed. Share your stories and thoughts using the #perfectlymixed and come back next Wednesday for another American story from outside the color lines.