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Essay: My rich, mixed heritage

In her diverse hometown, race never mattered. Now that she's moved away, she's learning to field questions about her origins.

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I've always tried not to identify myself by race. All my life I've said it didn't matter, and I still believe it doesn't. I grew up in Sacramento, Calif., where it was not that unusual to have a black mother and a white father.

But since I've gotten older and left my hometown, I've gotten more looks and questions.

"Are you adopted?" That's the question people ask when they see my parents and me together.

"No," I reply.

"Are you sure?" they often counter.

I'm never quite sure how to answer that. I'm not completely sure. My parents tell me I'm their biological child, but I don't remember my birth.

I've seen the pictures, but the alienlike creature covered in goo could have been someone else. It doesn't look like me, but I don't think I'm adopted or was switched at birth.

I don't know what to say. So, I simply smile and reply jokingly, "Pretty sure," or "As sure as I can be."

The question has always bothered me. Even if I were adopted, would that mean that my parents aren't my parents? Would I introduce them as my adoptive parents? I don't think so.

My mother has a big Afro and coffee-brown skin; my father is white with straight, light-brown hair and blue eyes.

In "The Color of Water," the author's white mother tells her half-black, half-white son that he is "the color of water." But I am not the color of water; it's not that simple.

I look like the perfect mix of Mom and Dad. My hair is usually smooth but wavy and sometimes so frizzy that it looks as though I've been electrocuted.

Depending on the season, my skin ranges from almost pasty white to light brown to olive.

I'm honest about what I am, but people never think I'm black. Most people describe me as "exotic looking," which translates to, "What exactly are you?"


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