Many of you wrote to us inquiring about the following article: Interracial/Intercultural Marriage-African-American Woman And Indian Man. In particular, you asked about Francesca and her racial identity. After reading the bonus section, you noticed that she solely identified as an African-American woman when she is African-American and Filipino? Was it something or many things that caused her to reach this conclusion? If so, what and why?
In fact, this is a question that many of us raising biracial and multiracial children may eventually ponder. How will our kids self-identify once this question is asked of them or they ask it of themselves? Even after, all our parental efforts to weave together the dynamics of our cultures, what if our kids select a different self-reflective option? Hence, I asked Francesca to partake in a tell-all interview of sorts on how she came to identify herself as an African-American woman.
Was there a specific time when you realized that you are neither all Black or Filipino? If so, could you share that experience?
I don’t think there was a specific time, but I do remember asking my dad what do I say when people ask me what’s my ethnicity. His response was to tell people I’m Black, and he proceeded to explain a concept that I will now refer to as the “one drop rule.” I think I left that conversation even more confused, but I’m glad we had it.
I remember another conversation with my Aunt (on my dad’s side) saying that she was bullied as a kid because her friends didn’t believe that she or that my grandmother was black. My grandmother said, she is Black and she even mentioned that her birth certificate said “Black” just as an extra reassurance for my aunt. Even though these conversations I had with my family as a young girl didn’t point me in any direction in terms of how I identified myself, the comical and sometimes confusing experiences have stayed with me after decades just because the conversation took place.
Do you identify more closely to one side or the other (Black or Filipino)? If so, why?
I identify as a Black woman as a result of a few specific experiences and people in my life. My aunt is my inspiration, and she has always presented herself as a strong, smart, successful black woman who played a huge role in her South Side Chicago community – I wanted to be just like her as a kid and still strive to live up to her legacy. Another really important experience was going to college – I was really struggling in my classes, and I was able to bond with a small group of black engineers. We always looked out for each other and grew our small community to help push us through the rigors of our curriculum. It was the first time where I felt like I was part of something and when we had time. we would give back and encourage other aspiring minorities to major in science-related fields.
Did you have any difficulty finding your identity or fitting in with the people around you as a biracial person?
For some reason, middle school was really tough for me in terms of fitting in. I didn’t have any black friends because I was in different classes and they would make fun of me because “I talked white”. Thankfully, as my education continued, people matured and I didn’t have any trouble fitting in even though in high school my friends were all white and in college, they were all black. Now that I live in the diverse Bay Area, I have friends that are from all types of different backgrounds (Black, Filipino, and Indian, etc.) and we are able to connect on different levels.
Do you feel that society puts you in a box?
No, I don’t think society puts me in a box mainly because I look racially ambiguous so, it’s hard for people to place me. I have a light complexion, but I think what really throws people off is my straight hair – it’s not kinky/curly like most half black women. People do question me when I say that I’m black and they question if I’m mixed with anything. People expect me to identify all parts of my background so nowadays I usually just say I’m Black and Filipino to avoid further prodding. If I looked a little more Black, people would see me as just that and wouldn’t ask.
Feel free to share any experiences you have had related to your race, or discuss what it means to you to live in this society as an African-American woman.
I’m excited about the unknown future experiences that I will embark on with my husband as it relates to race and culture. I believe growing up as a multicultural kid will help me when I raise my own kids who will have: Indian, Filipino and Black ancestry. I think the biggest takeaway I took from my experiences growing up is to talk about race – we don’t need to have the answers, but we should be able to share our perspectives and experiences. I think we need to surround ourselves with a diverse group of people who positively impact our lives and we should all be dedicated to a cause that impacts our community.
Thank you, Francesca, for your raw and thought-provoking tell-all follow-up interview. What do you think about what Francesca shared? Are you raising a biracial/multiracial or multicultural child? What tips do you have to share? Comment below!
Find out more about Francesca and her husband, Raghav via their blog Fran N Nelli!
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