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Being Born Biracial In Iowa in the 80’s and 90’s

By Jorel Robinson – I guess you could say as far as race was concerned, I grew up in a utopia where race was not an issue. I knew my father was darker than my brothers and sisters and I, but it made me no difference. It was not a thought. I had cousins with the same make up, and one of my best friends was the same way; mother white, father black. Wasn’t until I started playing outside with friends and going to school where I was exposed to the real world, and the way it operates. No one said it’d be fair, you got that right. It’s a cold world, so you better bring a coat.

Now there are many instances that I can point to in my life that race was an issue. I want to point to a few simple but for a child’s mental, these are thought provoking situations. I myself have very fair skin and yes, you can tell I am my fathers son but I get mistaken most of the time for anything other than black. I get Mexican, Puerto Rican, Italian, middle eastern, you name it. One of the first things I can remember is having that conversation with my parents about the “N” word, which someone had called me at school, and being black and some people may treat you differently once they find that out. I remember not showing fear but it was scary, and I thought “But they don’t know me or my dad.”

I had a friend, he was a white guy, and we were very close. He came from a family that did not think highly of black people. We would be playing outside and another good friend of mine and I would be told it was time to leave, his older grandparents were coming over and they do not like “Black People”. This was Cedar Rapids, Iowa 1993, not in 1963. Where I went to school, which was Grant Wood Elementary, there was a couple of black kids in each class maybe. Not very many biracial kids at the time but some. For me there where many times it made me very uncomfortable and that was one of them.

Raising my hand in class and asking the teacher before a test, which box should I check? He said,” Well, what is your mother?” I said, “White”. What is your father”, I responded, “Black”. He quickly responded without hesitation,” You are black, you are whatever your father is”. I always wondered why can’t I just be biracial.

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