If I Could Erase My Father’s DNA, I Would
For my whole life, I’ve struggled to embrace my biracial existence and paternal family.
As a child, I always stood in the middle between the Chinese and Black side of my family. I was the ideal genetic combination of my parents, too light-skinned to be my mothers’ daughter and too nappy-haired to be my father’s. As I grew up, I started to realize that the dark color of my skin, and more so my mother’s dark chocolate skin, was a problem for the paternal side of my family, and unfortunately to my dad, too. I was a sweet and innocent child negotiating a racist conflict in my own home.
I never really wanted to take sides, and how could I when deciding meant choosing between my parents who I dearly loved? I did not care about being biracial, and I would have never noticed it had they not made a big deal out of it. My paternal grandfather was a vicious man with a small-town, racist mentality. He would have preferred my dad marrying a white or mixed-race woman, but even he married my grandmother, a Black woman of lighter skin tone like me. There is so much irony in my family hating my mother when they, too, were partly Black.
How much Black is acceptable before it becomes too much Blackness?
My Father Resented My Mother’s Blackness
Growing up, I always felt I was never enough for my father because he made me feel little. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to satisfy him, how excellent of a student I was—he always found a reason to put me down and make me feel I wasn’t good enough. I grew thinking that I was at fault and that I needed to fix something in myself. The guilt started to make me feel indifferent and pushed me to distance myself from him. His high demands and his desire to be seen in the community as an important figure sadly did not match his behavior at home. He wasn’t a bad father, but it was very difficult to relate to someone who treated my mother so poorly. His biggest obstacle was ignoring his own shortcomings.
There was always this silent, tormenting pressure coming from my dad. I started to negate my identity and felt like I needed to fit into his expectations, sometimes without noticing it. In my town, all the Black girls relax their hair to straighten it, a testament to the instilled rejection of our own Blackness. I was one of them, suffering the burns that all of those chemicals cause just to look a little whiter, or, in this case, a little less Black. This intrinsic and cultural division was so prevalent in my town, which was mainly populated by Black people. We all fell into the hatred brought by colonization and it kept pulling us away from who we really were. In theory, the relaxer did work. I looked more Asian with my processed hair. But that only changed things on the surface.
It wasn’t just my father’s negative enforcement I had to face. Everything around me validated that I wasn’t good enough, that my people were not good enough: the media; my all-white dolls with thin lips, blonde soft hair and blue eyes; my mixed friends, who were indifferent about creating relationships with Black people. I just couldn’t be something I wasn’t. Black was written all over me. I clearly remember telling my friends that when I grew up I would reduce the size of my lips because they were too thick. There were always these constant personal criticisms: Why did I bite my nails? Why didn’t my genes contain more of my Chinese side so I would have softer hair? Why this and why that?
I Have Learned to Embrace My Black Identity
During my early childhood and teenage years, I didn’t feel pretty and used arrogance to cover up her insecurities and fragilities. As I became older, I started resenting my dad because of the way he treated me and my mother. At the same time, the hatred my dad had for my mother started to bleed into me, and I started resenting my mother for being Black. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started digging deeper into my family and tying up all the loose strings of my life and heritage.
I still have memories of going out to parties at the houses of other Chinese families and feeling so awkward because I didn’t resemble them. My father always compared me with other girls who had long soft hair, giving me insecurity without realizing that he had married a Black woman and therefore had a young and beautiful Black daughter. The food was always delicious but I never really felt welcome. I was not one of them.
Until this day, I still have a bumpy relationship with my father, and since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had another falling out. I don’t really feel connected with his side of the family and I am not really sure if I want to make an effort to make things better. As far as my mother goes, I learned to love her Blackness and mine, too, including my curly afro hair. I still have differences with her, but they are not based on my father’s hate.
I do miss him. Despite all of our differences, he is still my father. Maturity has made me see him more as a human being with all of his baggage. I still hope and pray that one day we will come together and cry about all of the time wasted fighting our differences and his stupid ideas. It might sound cheesy, but love is thicker than blood, and I don’t care anymore about what type of heritage runs on my veins. All I care about is letting go of the things that hold me back. I hope I can find the courage to make the first step once again because it is more painful not to.