My dad said that a lot to my sisters and me. We'd say back that we were mixed and he'd glare, as if the white in us wasn't good enough. Then he'd laugh in our face and talk about how naive we were. "Wait until you're in the real world," he'd say. People in the real world would treat us black. It didn't matter who we thought we were. All that mattered was how we looked.
He was partly right.
Every February, our school rehashed rehearsed material about slavery and civil rights. Our teachers preached equality and put up pictures of different colored hands all touching each other. "It doesn't matter what's on the outside," they'd say, "only what's on the inside."
The white parents would talk to us after school. "You guys are beautiful. It must be great to fit in anywhere."
It wasn't their fault. They didn't know it only took one drop of anything.
"You're not black enough," a black kid in high school said, looking me straight in the face after I asked to join their club. I knew why too. It wasn't that I spoke well or that I came from the suburbs. It wasn't that I had good grades, as their advisor would later defend, or because I didn't wear their clothes. It was the color of my skin.
It was because of something I could not change.
I didn't cry until I got home, until I told my dad, wanting to throw it in his face. The one group I had been banished to, because of something I had no control over, even that one group didn't want me. I was nothing.
So yeah, it's great fitting in everywhere until you realize no one wants to own you. Even worse when you realize you're only there to benefit them.
"Can you mark yourself as black?" An employer once asked me. "It would look good for the company."