17 Jun
Neither. Both.

I am not black. I am not white. I am neither or I am both.

Growing up my mother used to say, "You are not black. " She told my brother, sister and I that "You are true African-American." You see she is West African. Dad is Wisconsin American. So we are African-Americans. It has always made sense to me but it does not make sense to many others. My identity was built on culture, privilege, education and community. 

You have to understand that my mother is a 1st generation immigrant from an upper-class home. Her family is rooted in heritage, tradition, community and education. 

  • In her upbringing sexes were treated equally, before it was a trend. My great-great grandmother was the wealthiest person in the region because she started her own trading company. Traditions change when power shifts. Money is power.
  • Her parents not only encouraged independence, it was mandatory. They often traveled away from home for years at a time for my grandfather's work. She describes aunts and uncles as important parental figures to her seven-siblings during developmental years. Boarding school was the norm.
  • They had distant cousins who worked as house keepers and ground keepers. She lived and worked with them as their school fees were paid for by the family. She started working in the kitchen from a very young age. By the time she was eight (8) years old she was running the kitchen. She was taught to be a leader who understood privilege and compassion by supporting the work instead of dictating it. She would walk to the market to buy ingredients for meals and then return to help prepare it for the family.

To my mother, being African is an important cultural distinction that matters. Being from Ghana is an important point of pride. To be of the 'Taylor clan' is something indescribably extraordinary. 

I am not black. I am not white. I am neither? I am both?

The 2nd half to this story is the one of my curious, bright, compassionate and loving father. He was born into a culture where chauvinism thrives and conformity rules. 

  • The middle of Wisconsin. All white community. Very little opportunity to be exposed to diversity. 
  • A father who was raised to be 'the man of the house' yet yearned for something more than the relationship norms a small town could offer.  Church focused on moral superiority and sin; it didn't sit right with him. 
  • His yearning to focus and learn led him to eastern philosophy. Somehow his curiosity about the world lead him to a curious best friend who would eventually travel and gift him a pen pal in a different country. That pen pal would eventually become the love of his life and bare three beautiful biracial children. 

So you see my father is American. An American who understands his Northern European heritage (German/French). My father also understands that the far past does not change the identity that is bore in the soil on which you are born. 

I am not black. I am not white. I am neither or I am both. 

My identity was crafted through the careful and safe upbringing of two loving parents and an extended family of invested souls. 

I refuse to let external forces dictate the way I see myself. I understand that you may see me as black but those in Ghana see me as white. How can both be right?

I am not black. I am not white. 

I am neither and both.

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