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Race is a difficult subject to escape in America. When you are black, biracial – or not Anglo – you often find yourself torn to fit in, integrate, choose a side. You constantly find yourself seeking approval only to find that you are invisible and will never acquire what you see. It is as Ralph Ellison describes in “Invisible Man:”

“I was pulled this way and that for longer than I can remember. And my problem was that I always tried to go in everyone’s way but my own. I have also been called one thing and then another while no one really wished to hear what I called myself. So after years of trying to adopt the opinions of others I finally rebelled. I am an invisible man.”

During  recent trip to Brazil, Toya Brown Williams, reflected on what it means to be biracial in America. She’s spent most of her life trying to find her place, when really all she wants, all she is, is an American.

Read her story:

Everyone has been asking me what I have enjoyed most about me trips to Brazil. I, having this greedy chic that takes over my body ever so often, have consistently answered it was the food. Thus is not true. The true answer is, I love the love.

Growing up a tanned skin little girl with fuzzy curly hair, having a half white mother, living in Jamaica, NY was not easy. I was picked on for being part white, and ridiculed for my hair that I just couldn’t relax. I was taught that black was beautiful and powerful and that white people were oppressors that have no place in “OUR” community. I was taught to hate the white part of me.

Relocating to the south, I have seen the other side of that. I have witnessed my son being harrassed for no reason, I have watched brilliant children grow up and lose hope in their community and fall victim to the oppression I was told of as a child. In this place I was taught that being part white was a positive. That I benefit from it because I could “pass”.

I hated being of multiple racial backgrounds growing up… Never being sure of who you are or being accepted by your community, never fitting in does a lot of things to a child’s mind and spirit.

On my trips to Brazil, among all of the incredible food and great people I had the pleasure of working with, I learned these people don’t give a f**k. For the first time in my life, no one asked me “What are you”?. People assumed I was Brazilian. But mostly, nobody cared.

As I walked through a park in Sao Paulo there were all kinds of people. Beautiful people, Chocolate brown skin with green eyes, milky white skin with kinky blond hair, white skinned with blue eyes and glowing ebony skinned with piercing black eyes. They ran together, ate together, played together, made love together and no one posted pictures about how happy they were to see people of different races getting along. No one had to count the number of friends they had of a different background to meet the “Not Racist Quota”. Because this is normal, racism is not.

In this trip, I learned I was ignorant. I noticed a Brazilian co-workers family picture proudly displayed on her desk. She pointed out her parents and I said in all my brilliance, “Oh, your dad is black”, to which she responded, “no, he’s Brazilian”. The light came on!

I don’t know the history of Brazil, I can imagine that slavery was an institution there, amongst other things. But as I begin my research, I am overjoyed to learn that they as a people were able to overcome the oppression and just love themselves, as they are Brazilian! I have hope for my country, I am American.


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