Island of misfits

by Nikki Mckelvey
(Toronto, Canada)


My mother met my father in Toronto in the late 60's when it was taboo for a white woman to love a black man. My mother is Irish and Lebanese and my father is from Dominica, a small island in the eastern Caribbean. They fell in love, my father says it was my mothers big beautiful brown eyes, and moved in together. 5 years later I came along. My mother's father did not approve and they didn't speak for 14 years. My mother's mother loved me more than life and today her spirit lives inside me.
My father and mother split up when I was around one and my mother moved to California. She remarried and my stepfather was white, his children were white, I grew up thinking I was white. Looking back, I was embarrassed at school when my mother and new father would come because they looked different from me. It wasn't as common at the time for mixed children to be the majority as they are now. I was different. My family was different and because my mother never dealt with or talked about these things I always felt different. My best friend is half Japanese and Caucasian. We always would say we were from "the island of the misfits", because we didn't fit in with any single culture.
My situation was particularly difficult because I didn't know who my biological father was. My stepdad was jealous and so I never saw a picture or even heard his name growing up. When my mother moved to California she lost all contact with him. It wasn't until I turned 18 that my mother found him and for the first time saw what he looked like, who I looked like. It's hard to not know where you come from when you look and are physically different from those around you. I discovered my other half.
It wasn't until I moved back to Toronto that I even realized what it meant to be black. Black culture, music, food... I was raised in Orange County and only knew one culture. The one I was surrounded by. Once my eyes and soul were opened I could never look back. Toronto became my new home because people like me, multiracial humans, were the majority, not the minority! Most people I knew and met in Toronto were mixed, either by birth or relationships. It was the norm. Cultures mixed, they weren't segregated like in Southern California.
My children are both mixed race and I explain to them all the time about who and what they are, as do their fathers. My mom failed me in this department but I understand because times were different. She was a rebel at the time loving a black man and I respect her for all her choices.
It's apparent that we are moving toward a world that will one day only be a mixed race world. What a fabulous world that will be!!

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