I understand how colorism plays out within communities of color, and I understand how colorism easily influences those who are light-skinned and mixed-Black, such as myself, within the Black community. I will further preface this by saying by no means do I believe the experience of mixed-Black individuals to be more socially challenging than darker-skinned Black individuals. However, I do wish the discourse within the Black community allowed more room for discussing the experiences and challenges those like myself face, such as the cultural confusion and identity crises we often go through, and not least of all, and perhaps even because of, the ostracism with which we are met, often at some point from every community that makes up a part of who we are.
Having said this, I realize and will say preemptively that I support the assertion that the challenges of those of us who are light-skinned and mixed-Black do not sit, nor should they sit, front and center among the challenges impacting the Black community. After all, the challenges of the Black community are none other than a result of the racism and colorism within society, and so I believe it to be wrongheaded for me to assert that my own challenges should take priority over, or that they be given equal attention as, the challenges and injustices that by and large impact the Black community as a whole. I understand, and wholeheartedly believe, that what must always take priority and remain front and center for the Black community and communities of color is dismantling white supremacy and the white hegemony, which requires us to remain vigilant in unpacking the complex intricacies of racism and colorism within our society.
Now, having said what amounts to little other than an unnecessarily verbose preface consisting of caveats and disclaimers, I nevertheless felt this was necessary (esp. in the age of Twitter) to do so before claiming that I find the experiences and challenges of those of us who are light-skinned and mixed-Black are often taken for granted, overlooked, dismissed and often painted over in too broad of strokes that do not afford due diligence to the unique experience many a mixed-Black persons necessarily endure. I, for one, am a mixed-Black but racially ambiguous person, who is also queer and atheistic. My father is Black and my mother is white and I grew up working class in the rural South, and while I do not intend it as a sleight toward my family, I did not have any strongly intellectual family members (on either side of my family) who ever took it upon themselves to educate me about my heritage, particularly in terms of being Black and what it means to be Black in the United States. My family are good, humble folk—a moral and hardworking folk—and in the end, I believe that is what truly matters. But personally, I have always struggled and necessarily had to take extra care to educate myself when trying to understand who I am and where I come from. This includes seeking out mentors, guidance and role models during this journey.
This was important to me growing up, especially given the racism I endured as a mixed-Black child in a nearly all-white school, and it’s only become more important to me as the years go by, not just as a man who knows all too well the pain and the most blatant and ugly forms of white supremacy, but also because of a longing for kinship and having gained over the years a renewed sense of self-worth in being Black and pride in calling myself Black; because, let me tell you, growing up literally drowning in the evils of white supremacy, it does something to a mixed-Black child that any one of us would be and should be considered fortunate and strong to come out of and be morally worth a damn to either our people or society at large (truly, one in the same). I don’t know how I managed but I did, and I am here now, after many years of unpacking racist bullshit–the internalized racism, the self-loathing, the heartbreak, the confusion–all of the emotion that, even if I put forth my best efforts, I would not be able to describe to you here, right now.
I think a great deal of my perseverance is simply happenstance as a result of just the right or odd combination of experiences. After high school, I spent eight years in the United States Marine Corps. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy (minored in economics) and afterwards became one of the most recognizable stars in gay porn. I honestly don’t know how the hell any of this happened, but each and every thing I just mentioned played a great part in shaping who I am today. And so, I will conclude by saying I think the Black public discourse happening right now does a very grave disservice to us, and thus to itself, by too easily marginalizing the experiences and wisdom of those of us who carry the mixed-Black experience. You may disagree that this is the case, and for all I know you may be right. I just know that we are here—that I am here—and that our experience matters, too.