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When they attended playdates with white students in their class, they were always made to sit at the edge of the bed, to search for others in a room where they would never find anyone, to wait for the phone call on the following day saying their friend had a great time and would like to have them over again that never came.So their mothers would encourage their black friendships, which seemed to come easier.There are complexities in not only how their physical appearance is perceived, but the emotional toll that it takes on their psyche, as well as the people around them.Their stories are layered with feelings of alienation, insecurity, privilege, confusion, envy, and (for some) also pride—to be neither black nor white but an amalgamation of races.Our lines of communication are always held taut by her privilege.She has only dated white men, tried to catch up to groups of white girls in high school even as her backpack fell off her shoulder, and did things that fully black girls were too afraid to do at 17: lines of coke, sleepovers at her boyfriends’ house for full weekends.For as long as I can remember, she has been grabbed at the arm by strangers while entering a room and almost immediately asked to identify her race. For a long time, it felt as though I was her only good black friend.
But there is different and equally important symbolism in being born to an American interracial family in the early 1980s. The impact of Markle in the royal family is not diluted because she is not fully black.Ambiguous blackness could be forgotten, at the very least easily forgiven, when introduced to white families, to white friends, to white neighbors.On my basketball team, we would sometimes take bus trips to schools that were in towns like the one in Los Angeles where Markle grew up and which she has described as “a neighborhood that was leafy and affordable.Markle has had the opposite experience, recalling in a personal essay for in 2015 that in grade school, her teacher urged her to check the Caucasian box while filling out the census, because that was how she appeared. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion.I couldn’t bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. (Her father later advised her to draw her own.) As kids, my cousins too had trouble identifying themselves with either race.
You can tell with some ease that my mixed-race cousins have black in them.