White passing: A blessing and a curse



Caleb Brothers is a first-year student at UNI studying Interactive Digital Studies

Caleb Brothers, Guest Columnist

Being white passing isn’t a gift. It isn’t some kind of “special achievement” where I can just choose sides. I get caught in the divide between being white and Black. Being white passing is a blessing and a curse. Since I can remember, I have been asked the question, “Are you sure you’re Black?” 

Growing up, my father beat me black and blue. Growing up, my father abused my mom. Being Black wasn’t something I praised because my dad stripped that pride from me. I always thought being mixed was something special, but the way my father treated me gave me a dark outlook on the other half of myself. 

I was raised by my proud and brave mother who never let my dad lay another finger on me. She did her best to show me some sort of “Black culture.” But when growing up being one of the only Black or mixed people in your family, it can be hard. Without the guidance of my father, I was forced to look to my friends for some sense of who I was. But I found none. I was outcasted for looking “too white” or not acting “Black enough.” I was told I was lying about my race. I was told if I ever so murmured the n-word, I would be killed. This was my life, and I felt nothing would change.

In reality, things did change. But it was gradual. I had to learn to stick up for myself. I had to learn that I was not defined by my skin tone. I had to block out people who didn’t choose to believe I wasn’t any more than just “5% Black”. I especially felt more welcomed my senior year. More importantly, my football coaches helped guide me. They were all close with my mom and wanted to raise me right because my father hid in the shadows, a coward. I can still remember cooking my first hot links on the grill, hosting my first cookout and blaring Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole in my room. My coaches introduced me to the movie Friday, Black barber shops and delicious BBQ. My friends senior year started accepting me for who I was too. I finally felt I found my place in this world. 

I then applied to the University of Northern Iowa. This has been one of the best decisions of my life. I was asked to be a part of Jumpstart. 

According to the Universities website,  “Jump Start is an extended orientation program designed to facilitate the successful transition of students. This ranges from underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as students who have participated in Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and the Panther Access, Connection, and Engagment (PACE) programs (such as Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search).”  

I was able to move in early on campus and built strong bonds with my peers. This was eye-opening because, at college, no one is the same. Everyone has different experiences, backgrounds and opinions, and it was amazing to be able to connect with people I feel have, and always will accept me for being me. 

Growing up, I hated everyone. I hated myself. I wish I would have positively used that hatred. I didn’t. I see the damage hatred can do to a person. I forgive my father for the things he’s done. I forgive anyone who has ever called me names or made fun of me because I wasn’t their form of “Black.” . I forgive anyone who has discriminated against me. I do this because we need to learn to forgive. If we all continue to hide and never face our problems, we will never see adversity. 

I will start since no one else will. Being Black is more than just a skin tone or the amount of melanin in your skin. Being Black is powerful and being Black is beautiful. I wish I would have realized it sooner because being who I am is so special. Being a minority is something not everyone gets to say. Embrace it. Be who you are and never let anyone take that away from you. Being Black is something I will never take for granted again. It can be hard facing injustice and discrimnation but I see how these two terrible things have brought us closer together. I have been faced with climbing a “white wall” and today I have made it over. Today, I have found myself as a Black man.