Monday, July 7, 2014

Who’s ‘Normal’?

Here is an old piece, but it’s not a reprint. This article was first conceived for an anthology on multiracial identity, but I missed the deadline. It was eventually rewritten for a magazine’s special on “skin,” but needless to say, it was immediately rejected. It’s no use crying about “censorship.” I’ve got my own blog!

It was sometime in the late ‘80s, back before biracial was cool. My younger sisters and I grew up without a television, so as to keep us safe from its negative influences, but our parents did let us watch preapproved videos. One of our favorites was Hal Roach’s Our Gang, or The Little Rascals as it’s better known. The only downside was that we kids often misunderstood what was going on just as much as the kids in the show.

Case in point: “The Kid from Borneo,” in which the main characters mistake a freakshow star “Wild Man” as their uncle George, the “black sheep” of the family. After viewing it a few times, I was still extremely confused by the scene in which the mother comes face to face with the half-naked African.

“Mom,” I asked, “if they’re brother and sister, why is she screaming? Don’t they recognize each other?”

My mother’s look defined “flabbergasted.” “What?” she asked.

I must have looked confused.

“That man is black!” she squeaked out.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Those kids are white!”

“So…?” My sisters and I looked at each other. So what if some white kids have a black uncle? Wasn’t that…normal?

Mom looked helpless, probably wondering where she’d gone wrong in raising us. While offensive to her, that episode allowed me to form a special bond with Dickie, Dorothy, and Spanky. Sure, our friends might think our families are strange, but we mixed kids know how to weather through it.