Biracial Portraits

Man born in 1965
Planning Analyst
Self-Identification: African American
Father's Racial Identity: African American
Mother's Racial Identity: Asian (Japanese)

The benefit [of being biracial] to my mind is that when you meet people, they can't immediately pigeonhole you. Therefore, when I meet a person, clearly they notice that I'm not White but they don't identify me as Black. And that confuses them. And probably if they're going to be dealing with me on an ongoing basis, it's going to enter their minds and then they might be preoccupied with it for the first half hour trying to figure out just exactly what I am and I don't know why that's important, but for some people it is...And it's always kind of fun eventually to be able to tell them that I'm Black, because that just wouldn't occur to them.

As a matter of fact, when I worked as an intern in an investment banking form, there was a person there that finally came out and said "What race did you say you were again?" I said "Well, I didn't." I said "Are you asking me what my--" No, actually the question was "What nationality did you say you were again?" I said "Well, I'm American. If you're asking me what my ethnic origin is, that's a different question. Are you asking that?" Oh, yes, yes, right, right." I said "I'm Black." And his immediate response was "No, you're not." And so the only other Black people were a guy in the mailroom and the receptionist; there were no Black secretaries; there was no Black anything. And I honestly think that reaction was that I went against everything that this person thought about what a young Black person was supposed to be, because I had a lot of respect in that place. And everyone respected my thinking even though I was a very young person...[Not being able to pigeonhole me] forces people to approach me as an individual first until they can figure out who I am eventually...

Anyway that's an asset [not being pigeonholed]. And by the same token, that's one of the drawbacks of being biracial, because when I see a Black person, I'm not immediately identified as being Black...When I see Black people, especially here in this town, I want to run up to them and say "Hey! Guess what, I know you don't realize it, but I'm Black too; you can talk to me."...So that's a drawback--you feel like the people that you do identify with don't necessarily immediately identify with you.

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