My name is Maezza.
I’m 19 years old, and I live in Galway, Ireland. I’d like to start off by saying I’m so honoured to be writing here on the Mix and Match Family Blog.
My race and culture weren’t something I thought I might discuss in depth, yet lately, following a video I made with my friend and fellow student, Eric Osa, it seems to be a reoccurring topic with friends and family.
My background is diverse.
With an Irish mother, born and raised in New York State, a Mexican stepdad of 12 years, and a father from Bridgetown, Barbados, my racial and cultural mix is an unlikely one. These days, I’m incredibly proud of my cultures. However, it wasn’t always that way. Being mixed-race came with its own struggles, both interpersonal and personal.
I’d say my fight towards cultural acceptance first began in my hometown of 5 years: Savannah, Georgia. Although Georgia, particularly Atlanta, is well known for being a cultural melting pot, Savannah didn’t carry itself the same way in the early 2000s.
My school was made up of three groups: The white kids, the black kids, and the Asian kids. I didn’t fit into any of these groups – at least, not entirely. As one could imagine, this often left me sidelined with who I was. I was unsure if I could hang out with white kids, because I was seen as “too black” for them. In the same vein, I wasn’t sure if I could hang out with black kids, because I was seen as “too white”.
This often left me wondering if I would ever fit in with anyone. The difficult thing with race – and what I would find is most hard on children who are mixed-race – is that race is often viewed in boxes:
You must exist within one.
You cannot exist within two – or, at least, that is how children tend to view themselves. This issue, for me, was intensified by the other kids cruelly pointing out physical differences between us.
For example, I faced bullying from the white children in my school. I remember quite vividly – and it has stuck with me since – a time when I was on the playground with some of my friends. One, whose name escapes me now, approached me, and, in front of all my other white friends, pushed my nose up and said,
“You have a black pig nose.”
From that point forward, I struggled to feel confident about my appearance as a mixed-race girl. Often, when people look at features that are uniquely “black” or conventionally “white” and see them on someone who doesn’t entirely “fit” into that race, they aren’t sure what to make of it.
This is where the difficulty comes for mixed-race children. They are perceived as unique, being seen as not one race, but two or three or four. They might begin questioning themselves, or have their unique features, that they otherwise would not have felt insecure about, negatively identified.
This is not to say that this struggle exists for every child, but for me, it was a difficult one.
I did have black friends, but not as many as I had white. Due to my pale complexion, I often associated myself with the white kids by default. The few black friends I had would be the first to introduce me to parts of my black culture. For example, at age ten, I learned how box braids were done. As silly as it sounds, that was my first proper introduction to black culture.
Growing up, my dad never pushed our Bajan culture too much. Being Caribbean existed subtly. It existed in the Friday afternoon cookouts with doubles and rotis, in the soca music he played while cleaning.
My mother, however, placed heavy emphasis on our Irish culture. With a brother named Donovan, inspired by our great grandfather, I understood where my Irish blood came from. I even associated myself partially with Mexican culture, as my stepdad’s culture – specifically his Mexican dinners – have long since been a critical part of my life.
It wasn’t really until I had actually moved to Ireland that I began to think about my black culture. Before I moved here, I attended a California middle school, where there were only two black kids – with me being seen as one of them. That goes to show how white the school was. I was – shockingly – often called racial slurs by my peers. With little-to-no other mixed-race kids around me, I had little to go off of culturally in my teen years.
Self discovery finally came years later, when I moved to Ireland. A memory I would credit most is when I watched the 2015 Crop Over highlights from Barbados with my dad.
I saw the women in their feather costumes and I noticed my nose resembled their noses. My nose – which I had been trained to hate – was on Rihanna. These brown, beautiful Caribbean women looked like me. Not entirely like me, but they shared similar features. I would say it was then that I finally realised who I was.
I began critically researching my black history; where I came from – relatives who now lived in the Bronx, family in Amsterdam, family in Canada – all these connections from the Caribbean were revealed to me.
It was a beautiful, black web.
One which I had been so scared to explore before.
These days, my closest friends are black AND white. They see, and honour, my mix. I’m no longer ashamed of my black AND white features. These same features – that I had tried so hard to hide with too-pale foundation, hair treatments and dismissal – are now beautiful to me.
I have now realised that it was always okay to be in not one box, but two. I may not be entirely white, entirely black, or even entirely Mexican, but I do believe that I, and other mixed-race children, are beautiful.
All we need is to stay in touch with ourselves.