Last year for my master's I wrote a thesis paper on the discrimination that Biracial individuals receive from all walks and facets of community and life depending on their mix and how much they lean towards it. Now what I plan to do since my skin tone leans to the more Caucasian side is to let my hair grow out. (it has to a ridiculous length) and I will go to a stylist and have my now annoyingly long hair changed to look more like it belongs on a Northern European individual and see if I am treated any differently for it. As for my voice, I sound like how Americans think a stereotypical British person sounds for the most part (you can hear the Igbo a bit if you know West African accents). I likely will but this will confirm or disprove what I wrote about in my thesis paper so that I can have physical evidence to back it up. I will walk around stores, drive down the street with a nice looking car (rented), and go to more "white areas" and see.
Day 1: First few hours after styling the hair, I am being constantly mistaken for a person of Spanish Origin. First notice of the day, went to a branch of my bank that I had not been to before. Decided to talk business with a Caucasian teller, gave a very warm and friendly handshake and spoke in gentle and pleasant tones. After business was conducted, pretended to sit down and wait to meet up with someone, saw individual greet a Black American client, conversation was noticeably a lot stiffer and teller was a lot less warm and inviting and seemed like he wanted the man to leave. Edit: It was pointed out that I did not state the behaviour of the client after me. He was, as is colloquially said, all smiles and tried to be friendly with the teller, more so than I was. Whilst I wore a t-shirt and jeans he wore a business suit, so logically he should have seemed a more desirable customer than I.
Day 2: Went book shopping for some textbooks, nothing occurred that I noticed. Will buy more textbooks when the rest become available. Learned that I need 3 different gels, had to learn to use them in order, and two kinds of brushes and a comb plus how to tie a bonnet around my hair properly and will have to purchase a hair dryer. Perhaps the most levity of the day was my fiance asking me if I wished to get my hair done with her at some unspecified date in the future. That should add more to people consistently mistaking me for a woman all the time but I digress. Just adding some filler, I should not realistically expect to find evidence of racism every single day, if I find less than I assumed then that should be a good thing right?
Day 3: No activity of note that occurred today except me somehow failing to properly use a hand held hair dryer. For those who asked here are the before and after pictures of my hair.
That was me before the style
This is myself now.
Day 4: Martin Luther King Jr Day, not expecting to get any data on this day.
Day 5: A lot more results and data this time. I sat on the bus near a bunch of Nigerians commenting in Igbo (Baltimore has a lot of Nigerians) on how that "white man" (me, though the word they were using for white person was not exactly a nice word) had been styling his hair. I told them after a while in Igbo that I could understand every word and they were in shock and asked how a "white man" could speak a Nigerian tongue and I had to inform them that I was half-Nigerian myself. I also surprised the Slovakian bus driver who was thinking that I was a British/Spanish mix. To note, even before the hair change I have never been acknowledged by Nigerians as being one even when I lived there because I looked to different from them so that was not exactly new. Especially in my home village I had to convince a lot of the people that I was my mother's son
. In more interesting news I sat down for hot chocolate in Starbucks after buying some textbooks ($500 to rent a bunch of textbooks for just one semester is a robbery in my opinion). Then I had the opportunity to run into 3 police officers who immediately spotted that I was mixed from the onset, they said it was their job to be observant about facial structures and genetics when doing forensics and other law related things. Interested in my paper one of the policemen, who looked as Stereotypically white as you can possibly get, complete with a semi "porn mustache" informed me that he was actually ethnically Jewish/African-American and that he had a lot of experience in this regard. The other two cops were Polish and Czech (Baltimore has everyone it seems). They did answer a lot of questions and got into a philosophical discussion with themselves about biraciality and how Biracials should not be forced to identify with either of their parent races just because of their parent races and that they should forge their own identity. Although their biggest surprise was the news when it came up that in all my years of living in the United States I have never had a Taco or a Hamburger. They asked if that was a British thing. I was later recommended that if I wanted to get more interesting results to visit Hartford, Jessup, Cecil and Salisbury county in Maryland as the local people there are known to be less than amicable to minorities especially Cecil county (which is where my American High School was located) which has a well established KKK membership (was not fun encountering those elements when I was a teenager).
Day 6: Waaaay to cold for anything to be done. Major shops and other places are closed due to inclement weather.
Day 7: No data to be found, except finding the wavy hair at war with the straight.
Day 8: As I was walking I came upon a wall that had the hashtag #blacklivesmatter
posted all over it with faces of the dead. To my surprise there was a Nigerian name on the list, and it was my sister's friend that had been killed by police on January 1st. As I was observing the mural an African-American man walked by saying, "Nice to see a white man taking an interest and seeing what that's about." Well, for one thing, it's not fair to say that white people would have no interests in how these individuals died just because of the colour of their skin.
Day 9: No data collected
Day 10: No data collected
Day 11: I don't see how someone could mistake me for Al Sharpton. They said it was the hair but I don't see it. Frankly I'm too light to be confused with Al Sharpton, also I have no idea what Al Sharpton would be doing in Baltimore right now. Ran into another Nigerian assuming that I was British, so to surprise the person I switched my accent to a Pidgin English (a form of English spoken in Nigeria) one and enjoyed the surprise on the man's face.
Day 12: No data
Day 13: Not that I mind getting data, but I am receiving quite a lot more black on white discrimination from the black community in the city. Not that I don't know that everyone has the capacity to be racist, but when you as a biracial have it drilled into your head that it's just white americans that are racist it is quite jarring. I am slow to find much white on black discrimination though.
Day 14: No data
Day 15: No data
Day 16: How?????? How???? How can an African-American say I look like Frederick Douglas. There are a ton of differences between me and that civil rights history figure.
Day 28: Sometimes the glare from a racist person becomes very uncomfortable. If you can vividly feel it, focusing on other things becomes very tricky, whether in conversation with a friend unaware of what is going on, or eating. My first thoughts are, "who the hell are you, and why are you sending such looks my way, you don't know who I am, so why don't you go away." The thing about racism and prejudice that I've noticed these past few months directed my way, are that since it's looked down upon, people don't say anything, but their body language and eyes do. To those that act so towards myself and others, you are sabotaging yourself of opportunities that you don''t know might come your way. Hell that guy you are looking at that way could become the person you need to go to for help with mortgage, city management, law etc, and the first thing that person will remember upon seeing you, is the way you treated him without a word uttered. I did make the endeavour to head out like I said I would and I reaped the "benefits" of it. I was with a friend and everything was going as normal in that restaurant until I stated that I was biracial and I guess people in restaurants somehow have super hearing or something.
Day 35: Ran into a member of the Ku-Klux Klan. We had a rather interesting conversation. He didn't assume me for white, he immediately figured I was biracial. The man was claiming that the group was not as violent as its earlier incarnations had been. That they KKK was now actively trying to recruit Blacks, Jews and homosexuals into their ranks in order to promote a more "American" image. Their new stance of hate and dislike it seems is against immigrants and those of the Islamic faith.
Day 36: Not so much to do with anything racial per say but the police force entered my apartment. It seems they were searching for the previous resident of the my abode and were surprised as they didn't know there was a white person living in the apartment now.
Day 50: Decided to change my hair to be parted sideways instead of backwards to see if there would be different reactions, will post picture much later.
Day 60: Decided to go to a church to discuss the subject with the priest. We had an hour discussion of previous church statements against intermarriage and biracial couples and their offspring. The priest (name withdrawn) stated that at one point when he was much younger he was of that opinion as an altar boy and it took a lot of change happening around him for him to change his mind. (This was a Greek orthodox church)
Day 65: Ok seriously, this time a Caucasian said I looked like Frederick Douglas.
Day 85: During the Cherry Blossom festival in Washington D.C I ran into a biracial couple with their son. The mother was a white American, and the father a black Dominican. Obviously their son was a mix of both their features. I asked them for a moment of their time after informing them of my experiment and were more than happy. First I asked them questions on how exactly would they address the dichotomies of race with their son seeing as he was mixed. The mother's response was that she had placed her son in a school where there were plenty of other biracial children, and that he would know himself as mixed first and foremost. She didn't want her son to be pigeonholed or given labels. She did say that she and her husband planned to have more serious talks about racial identity once he got much older but that on her end she had not received much incident. The father on the other hand, due to his much darker skin, was oft mistaken for a kidnapper accosting his son, he spoke of having to deal with police and other officials who did not believe that his own child was his due to the vast differences in skin tone, the son being a very tan colour and the father being very dark. He plans to address that issue with his own son when he grows older as well. I am not sure if I mentioned this but my mother experienced something similar but in a different vein. When I was very little my skin was extremely light and thus whenever my mother took me around the general assumption was that she was my nanny and would get a range of responses once it was found out that she was my parent. This brings up another part of the biracial question, the relationship between child and parent, especially when the child is very far removed from the parent in terms of appearance to the point that police had to get involved.
Day 87: I decided to get an issue with my Nigerian passport sorted out at the Nigerian embassy in D.C as I plan to attend one of my cousin's wedding in Dec. 2015. So as I arrived I didn't expect too much hustle, they said they were closing but when I explained they were willing to take a look at my problem. What was not expected, and certainly not wanted, were the surprised glances upon seeing me and nearly being turned away almost immediately because in their words, "A white man coming in here claiming to be a Nigerian". I nodded, smiled and laughed through all of it, I ignored the condescending gazes, especially even more when most of the staff aiding me found out I was of mixed race. I could have sworn they harrumphed so much they could make a hyena confused. When I was offered to take a passport photo a woman at the embassy looked at me and said, "White Igbo, certainly you cannot take a picture with that hair (my hair was neat and tidy at the time), if you want to have a Nigerian passport, come back when you look like an actual Nigerian, "She said after looking me up and down like she could not believe I actually existed. Luckily I grew up with those looks pointed my way that I give no reaction to it outwardly, but that look, doesn't stop irritating me. They even had the gall to use the words "half-caste" in front of me.