By: Sevgi Fernandez
My mother is white, my father is black, and I’m right there in the middle. My parents divorced when I was 2 so I didn’t grow up with equal representation of both sides of my heritage. This would prove to be a catalyst for the years of racial identity confusion yet to come.
My father grew up very poor in Massachusetts. To this day, he’s the only one on that side of my family to get his PhD. In fact, he graduated Magna Cum Laude at Harvard and went on to get his doctorate at UC Berkeley where he would meet my mother. My father was a part of the Black Panther Party and has spent his life writing books and consulting on issues surrounding racism and sexism.
My mother is from an upper middle-class Quaker family. Her father Clark Kerr, was the President of the University of California from 1958-67. Her mother a Stanford graduate who was an amazing environmental activist. My mom experienced what I think many white women who marry black men do, a lot of disapproval and hatred. I’d venture to say she got it from both sides, black and white.
I lived my first 14 years with mother and grandparents, only seeing may father 2-3 times a year. My Birth name, Sevgi, which means love in Turkish, was given to me by my father. Unfortunately, when my parents separated, my mother and her family changed my name to Carrie. (Not legally) So when I was with my mom I was “Carrie” for all intents and purposes a white girl, with caramel skin mind you.
When I would see my father, I was Sevgi, and identified as black. You can see how this might be confusing for a child. The result was that I was never comfortable in my skin and I never felt I belonged in either place completely.
It wasn’t until I was 18 or 19 that I began to go by the name Sevgi wherever I was. It was about that time being “mixed” became “in”. Prior to that I was either to light or too dark; translation, never good enough. I finally found myself and my place in this world in college. I discovered my anger and through that, I discovered my passion. bell hooks helped with both.
I recently posted a link to my blog on an anti racism group’s site. The following was my introduction:
My name is Sevgi Fernandez, I’m a biracial woman and have spent the better part of the last two decades working as a Coach and Consultant specializing in cross-cultural/interracial families, blended families and Corporate/Executive diversity training. I’d appreciate your adding your voices to the discussions on my new blog. I’m hoping to create a forum where everyone can speak on the issues of racism and racial bias. I hope to challenge people of ALL races, not only to examine the issues we are facing but also to examine themselves and what they individually are bringing to the table. Below is a link to my website and one of our first blogs/discussions. Please read and participate in the dialogue. Blessings
Now I’ll share the responses I received from two men who we will call WHITE HATER,(WH) and BLACK HATER,(BH) for lack of anything better, or maybe just because I choose to….
What the hell is “biracial”? Do u vacillate between different races? One day black. … the next white? This description of a persons skin colour or ethnicity is both ridiculous and funny at the same time. God in heaven. Political correctness gone crazy.You are a woman. Skin colour irrelevant. Ethnicity irrelevant.
It’s actually very relevant to me and many others who identify as biracial. Instead of judging and attacking maybe you could ask questions. You have not lived my experience so why choose to judge me and patronize me?
Sevgi Fernandez,we understand what you are saying.Please proceed and know that the group in general respect your ideas,although there might be exceptions.
Thank you ! I think that for people of color, we don’t have the “choice” to not see COLOR. Unfortunately we don’t live in a colorblind world. For biracial and multiracial people, we often experience not fitting in anywhere. For example, I was often too white or too black, never having a place in a group. I think people often take racial identity for granted. There is a huge biracial community and being able to have just that, a community is important to us. We are no longer “other”. I’m keenly aware of the effects of racism from both sides. I hope that many of you participate in the discussions on my blogs. My hope is to challenge everyone to not only look within themselves but also to understand the experience of others. Through knowledge and compassion we can make a difference
Because you perpetuate racial stereotyping. Your first affirmation is that you are biracial. As if that alone defines you. My challenge to you is to be beyond any kind of profiling of yourself. Your comments perpetuate racial stereotyping
Tx Sevgi!I hope you find your place in the sun with us also.You already made an impact here,and we will be following your posts etc. with interest and expectation!
Eric-,let us give Sevgi a fair chance to express exactly what she want to communicate.Maybe we all learn something new!!?She is in an unique position to tell us how she is effected by diversity and I do not want to miss it!!!!
I appreciate that . Eric, why is it that my being biracial is all you got out of my post? I also listed what I’ve been working on for the past 20 years. Owning my racial identity does NOT perpetuate racism; I would venture to say that refusing to acknowledge race might…….
I own my Caucasianness too. Along with undoubted infusions in my ancestry of black, possibly Asian and any other mix you care to mention. I have the typical racial attributes of a white person but cannot possibly be classified as pure white. My family has been in africa for 300 plus years. Its inevitable I have the blood of other races in my veins. But I don’t preface any posts by clarifying my race. My race does not define who i am. Others may assume my being white must necessarily translate into some stereotype, which is usually informed by their upbringing and outlook on life. That’s their issue. So all I am saying is that prefacing your comment by racial classification to me only serves to perpetuate myths. Im on your side. I dont care if you are biracial. ..ghastly as that sounds… or white or asian or whatever.
For me it’s really hard to understand what Sevgi Fernandez wants reading from her comments. She appears like she’s saying please recognise us,divide your minds and hearts to identify my race so that I, as a coloured may ,benefit or be privileged from my race status or category. I’m black and still suffers from racism and this group is about eradication of racism. If we can fight racism based on privileging people based on their skin colour, where would that end. As a black person I don’t want to be recognised as black or as white but as a human being. That’s what the racial war is all about. It’s about Human beings being equal without stereotyping and demanding yo be what you are based on colour but based in the fact that you are human. Crying victim because no one wants to recognise you colour to me it’s shallow. If we would say you want to be recognised as one who was underprivileged during the time of apartheid and now you’re deprived or not benefiting where the race that was underprivileged then benefits now,then I may understand that. But still that may need to be dealt with in Court. We can have that anomalous act highlighted or help with our lawyer friends who may wish to challenge the government on those bases. However, the truth is we’re all human and can not want for anything more than being recognised as such.
First I don’t believe I was “crying victim” I was simply sharing my experience. Secondly, I don’t believe that owning my racial identity in any way perpetuates stereotypes. It is possible for us to recognize our differences Without negative connotations and stereotypes. Regardless of how I feel about your responses, I’m glad that a dialogue is coming out of this. I believe this offers us each a chance to try to understand the others point of view so, thank you for sharing.
As I’ve come to expect, there’s always a mixed bag of feelings and ideologies when it comes to race. I’m so blessed to be a part of several social and politically active groups comprised entirely of mixed people. For most of us, being mixed had a special set of struggles that others don’t experience. Many people take their racial identity for granted. They take for granted always having a place they fit in.
I get that many wonder why I would want to classify myself as mixed or biracial given I’m so against racial stereotyping and division. To this I say, I believe there’s a huge difference between owning one’s racial heritage and segregating one’s self because of it. I’m grateful that my multiracial sons are growing up with a community, one they belong in, one that’s accepting them as they are.
So please, don’t assume without walking in my shoes.
By: Mark Johnson
Blended in a society, that doesn’t even say hi to me.
Trying constantly to keep my eyes wide open you see.
Sometimes talking too white, can turn into a fight.
Acting too black is almost never allowed to be right.
So, I’ll just try to fit in, and not please anyone else but me.
No more feeling as if I’m too nice or too light.
Looks like society is rapidly changing it’s complexion, yeah you damn right.