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'I'm an actress, a writer, the Editor-in-Chief of my lifestyle brand The Tig, a pretty good cook and a firm believer in handwritten notes.' A mouthful, yes, but one that I feel paints a pretty solid picture of who I am. While I could say Pennsylvania and Ohio, and continue this proverbial two-step, I instead give them what they're after: 'My dad is Caucasian and my mom is African American.
But here's what happens: they smile and nod politely, maybe even chuckle, before getting to their point, 'Right, but what are you? I'm half black and half white.' To describe something as being black and white means it is clearly defined.
We were leaving a concert and she wasn't pulling out of a parking space quickly enough for another driver. Her eyes welling with hateful tears, I could only breathe out a whisper of words, so hushed they were barely audible: 'It's OK, Mommy.' I was trying to temper the rage-filled air permeating our small silver Volvo.
Los Angeles had been plagued with the racially charged Rodney King and Reginald Denny cases just years before, when riots had flooded our streets, filling the sky with ash that flaked down like apocalyptic snow; I shared my mom's heartache, but I wanted us to be safe.
We drove home in deafening silence, her chocolate knuckles pale from gripping the wheel so tightly.
Fast-forward to the seventh grade and my parents couldn't protect me as much as they could when I was younger.
But he saw beyond what was put in front of him in that small-sized (and, perhaps, small-minded) town, and he wanted me to see beyond that census placed in front of me. 'You said your mom is black and your dad is white, right? I smiled meekly, waiting for what could possibly come out of her pursed lips next. And I drew back: I was scared to open this Pandora's box of discrimination, so I sat stifled, swallowing my voice.
I was home in LA on a college break when my mom was called the 'N' word.
' A question I get asked every week of my life, often every day.
'Well,' I say, as I begin the verbal dance I know all too well.
Morphing from Latina when I was dressed in red, to African American when in mustard yellow; my closet filled with fashionable frocks to make me look as racially varied as an Eighties Benetton poster.