An Intruder in Two Spaces: What It Feels Like to Be Biracial

This confusion at your own place is the essence of being biracial. Even though you owe no one an explanation, there’s a desire to explain, which comes from believing that just by being yourself you are a liar. You’re an intruder in either space, with no right to claim one or the other without a heavy caveat. You’re not really what you say you are, not “technically.” It’s my feeling the need to need to clarify at those weddings, to say “I’m not entirely part of this group” or “It’s ok that I’m wearing this because my dad is Indian,” before anyone could call me out on my trespass.

When you’re constantly being asked “what” and not “who” you are, this is a knee-jerk reaction. You’re ready for it before that puzzled look appears on a stranger’s face. Being biracial means having to justify why your skin is this color when your mom is that color, or why you know so much about Indian music because you don’t look like you should know about Indian music, or why you don’t know more because you look like you should be an expert.

And you’re told not to be mad, because these people are “just curious.” It’s still a rare thing! You’re making a big deal out of it, it’s just a joke. You should help them learn. Forgive them if they’re mad at you for wearing a bindi, they just thought you were appropriating. Understand when they see your name after your relatives’ “normal” names, they just want to know how you got there. They just want to explain to you that maybe you’re using the wrong words to describe yourself. It’s too much hassle to get mad, listen and answer their questions and save yourself the frustration.

— Jaya Saxena, in The Aerogram, writing about her experience with being biracial.

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Photo: anurag agnihotri