Biracial Portraits

Man born in 1968
Administrator Nonprofit Community Development Program
Self-Identification: Other/Mixed
Father's Racial Identity: European American
Mother's Racial Identity: Mixed

I have no illusions about the access that my fair skin gives me and my straight hair; I don't think in certain contexts that it makes too much difference, but I know that in many settings even before I open my mouth, I'm given the advantage, and yet my mind and my values are firmly in that multiracial landscape and I identify as a person of color and I feel profoundly out of the loop sometimes when a conversation is taking place and it's as though I don't want to belong to that loop. You know, proud to be out of it...

I consider my biracial ancestry or makeup an terms of living well, enjoying my life, and having a sense of place. I have it; I don't think being biracial gave it to me--it was a set of experiences, a very loving mother, and the confidence to say I can be this and not that or I can straddle and do that comfortably. You see what I'm saying--so in my mind, it's not biracial itself that's an asset in having that sense of place but being able to straddle. The asset clearly for me in working is having insight into different cultural worlds and expectations and day to day encounters and being able to apply those.

And I change my speech...I'm a lover of accents and an armchair student of culture and differences in how people use personal space and language and all those things, and sometimes it's quite conscious; I'm also conscious of not doing it in a way that someone can easily peg me as belittling them or patronizing them or humoring them. With changing the expressions that I use, I'll be briefer or more drawn out, I'll intonate a little differently, particularly when I'm with Bahamians at home, with African Americans in the South Bronx; it's something that I do consciously...Someone said, I think it was Maya Angelou...writing about the ability to have several worlds and communicate effectively in them...I'm very comfortable in that and I do consider that an asset.

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