lone wolf pt.1
// wolves are typically pack animals, but those that are abandoned by or excluded from the pack are described as lone wolves //
Growing up in the U.S. with mixed heritage of any sort is generally considered taboo and unnatural. Loving vs. Virginia had only recently granted my parent’s marriage– and a birth like mine– legal status. But in the hearts and minds of many Americans my siblings and I were still very much illegal...
Since that first day in elementary school when I witnessed my older brother being called ‘zebra’ by a tall, African-American girl, and ‘hybrid-monster’ by a red-headed Caucasian boy, I understood that we had been cast out. To be honest, I was fine with that. I had my own family pack and that was all I needed. Right then and there, I accepted our status as ‘outsiders’ in American society.
My brother, however, did not accept our status as outcasts. He wanted to belong to one of America’s main identity groups despite not having grown up in either white or black communities/cultures. “Mixed Heritage” was not an option on the census form - so he chose “Black” and nothing else.
While I carried my own personal pride in being an “Other” or a “mixie” - I even got into fist fights at school to defend my full mixed heritage - my older brother had internalized his chosen identity and often vocalized the shame he felt in being seen with certain members of our family who appeared more “white”.
His performance of blackness, while accepted by many, was nearly always put into question when his ‘non-blackness’ accidentally leaked through. In an attempt to fully legitimize his claim he refused to be seen with one of our parents in public and would often make up stories about his upbringing. He would criticize me and my siblings for wearing certain clothes, listening to “white-people music”, for looking too pale, or for not wearing our hair a certain way.
Like what everyone in American society was trying to get us to do, my brother “chose a side” and intentionally rejected entire parts of himself. In the end, my brother was unable to successfully integrate how he wanted to perceive his identity and the reality of his family background. I believe this desire to be accepted by a monoracial group, and his ultimate failure to do so, shattered his mind and contributed to his untimely and permanent illness.
I refused to go down the same tragic path. I was proud of who I was and didn’t need a larger group to validate me. I chose to be a “lone-wolf” over trying to pass for anything other than what I knew I was– mixed. I refused to sacrifice my family’s historical narrative, and my own personal experiences, to serve the greater good of a ‘group’ identity that would never fully accept me as I am.
My path has been lonely and difficult...but ultimately, deeply rewarding.
read part 2 here.