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Being Mulatto

In: Social Issues

Submitted By christinegn
Words 1464
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Being Mulatto: A Mixed Experience

The year was 1989. I was a naive 19 year old, away from home for the first time. I had just completed Army basic training and was now beginning MOS (military occupational specialty) school at Fort Benjamin Harrison Indiana. We stayed in dorms, two or three to a room. One night I was talking music with my two black roommates, and at some point during our conversation, they made it clear to me that I did not “know my history”. They meant that as a half-black person, I should be knowledgeable about black history and black musicians. But who were they to decide what my heritage was? Just because they grew up listening to Sly and the Family Stone? So what! I grew up listening to the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. How was that any less “my heritage”? So there I was, immersed for the first time in black culture (the base must have been 95% black and other races), and I didn’t know the language, much of the culture, or get the jokes. We went out to dance at the club on base, and I met this really cute black guy. Being raised in a small rural town, I’d never met or dated any black men. I just remember my stomach sinking in embarrassment when he looked at me like I were from another planet and said, “you don’ know what time it is!” I looked at my watch and back at him, clueless. But that was his point, and the girls’ point. Apparently, I had no business calling myself half-black, since I knew so little about it. One thing was for sure: being half black did not mean I was an insider, or even familiar. Nope. I was mulatto, and that was another thing altogether. The last of my struggles at Ft. Ben Harrison happened first day of logistics class. Back in ‘89, there was no ‘mixed’ box on the form we had to complete, so I checked both black and white. The sergeant called it out...

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