On Friday afternoon the Office of Intercultural Engagement held a CommUNITY dialogue to discuss the experiences of black biracial individuals in the event titled, “Black and Biracial.”
Aysia Evans, an OIE graduate assistant, opened the discussion and introduced the four UNCG graduate and undergraduate student panelists, Caleb Cuthbertson, Katya Davis, Joaquin Flowers and Jordan Ormond Foster. While all four panelists identify as biracial, each shared a unique perspective regarding their experiences in the black community.
Davis, a UNCG senior and an international business studies major, described herself as coming from a mixed black and white background. Born in New Jersey and raised in the suburbs of New York, she described her upbringing as “culturally diverse. I came from a neighborhood with a lot of Dominicans and Haitians. However, I went to school in a different county filled with a lot of white and Korean people. I never went to school with black people.”
Coming from a family with a white mother and black father, Davis described her unique experience growing up as the only one of her siblings to have features predominantly associated with white people.
After moving from New Jersey to Raleigh, Davis began attending a school with a student population that was approximately half black and half white.
The shift in her environment gave Davis the opportunity to “think more about who I am. But it also gave me a challenge; how do I view myself, and how do others view me?”
Elaborating, Davis said, “Obviously, I am very light-skinned. Mainly, my issue is people thinking that I am white or everything else but black. I had a lot of derogatory things said to me when I came to college.”
Upon entering UNCG, Davis cited experiencing a variety of different situations, which she in part attributed to the diverse UNCG student population. “I think it also made it difficult for [biracial] people like us, because people look at everything you are not.”
Davis expressed frustration with the tone of the way people asked her questions. “People are so insensitive in the way they ask you, people always want to ask me: ‘what are you?’ And the way I look at it, is that I’m human, I’m a girl and I’m American.”
In response, Davis described people continuing to push, and rudely ask, “What are you?”
After Davis spoke, the floor discussed on the approach of the way people ask, “What are you?”
When Flowers, a UNCG junior and media studies major, took the panel, he said believes the problem is “that people are so nosey. I remember a time when I went to Dairy Queen with my aunt and cousins, and of course, I am the darkest one. I went there and this guy and his family just looked at my aunt in disgust and kept looking at me. That was the first wakeup call for me.”
Graduate student and panelist Foster described having similar experiences to Flowers. “My dad is a large black man,” said Foster, “and we live in a predominantly white neighborhood. My little sister is dark, with dark eyes and dark hair that is black textured. We all go somewhere and they look at us. Last night, Aysia and I went to a bar, and we got a lot of looks just walking through. This happens all the time.”
The conversation continued to look deeper into the perception of what it means to be black. According to Davis, her skin color has a lot to do with her connection to the black community. Despite the skepticism directed towards her because of her light skin, Davis believes that she, along with other biracial black people, have a place within the black community.