My mom is white and my dad is black. My father was in the Army and my mother is native German.
When I was six I went to a kindergarten nestled in the foothills of a German village. I don’t have many memories of being a six years old. I remember my parent’s apartment, a little old lady who didn’t like me because I destroyed her bushes, and that I only spoke German, but I fully understood my Dad’s English.
Every winter in Germany, little kids dress up and reenact that story about the Three Kings who follow the North Star. One of those kings is African, so usually a little white German kid is painted brown in the face. I was chosen to be one of the three kings. Guess which one I was? They saved on face paint that year.
My kindergarten mates always teased me for being brown. When I complained to my mother, she told me to tell them that they were “Weiss wie Kase” (white as cheese). They continued to tease me and my curly hair. I told my parents that I wished that I looked more like my mom and not like my Dad.
I grew up in Germany for the majority of my life. I was always surrounded by white women and men. My cousins were white and blond. You could easily get a brush though their hair without it getting caught. There were very few people that were not white, and if they weren’t white they were Turkish, Greek or Italian. But they were never as brown as me. When I would play “Spice Girls” with my friends they would always force me to be Scary Spice. I’m sure that in Germany there was a lack of brown dolls even available. I mean there weren’t even any brown people in my cartoons, but I’m also certain that I would have picked the white doll regardless because that’s what I taught was pretty and normal. Even in pretend, I couldn’t escape my “otherness.”
I eventually switched to an American school on the military base that was run by the Department of Defense. The military is extremely diverse so the children of the service members came from many racial backgrounds. I wish I could have been excited to meet people that looked more like me. Instead I found myself being “othered” Again. Black children called me a traitor for being half-white. I found myself being accused of not “acting Black.” It was so unfair. I had never been around black people my life. How was I supposed to act like it? Both of my halves did not accept and therefore it felt like both of my cultures were foreign to me. I was German who was not German and an African-American who was not American or Black.
Not to end on a bleak note, I’ve gained more of an identity and comfort in my skin. I feel as children grow up they became less cruel and more accepting. Not that I’m not subject to textbook mixed kid situations. My friends still compliment me on my “exotic” features and strangers still like to guess “what I am.” But growing up a displaced third culture kid has a huge effect to my psyche. I mean to this day I can’t bring myself to wear my hair curly on a daily basis. I did that once in high school and my black friends called me nappy and white friends made afro jokes.