04/09/2014 04:17 pm ET Updated Jun 09, 2014


The young, black woman at the microphone is angry. As she speaks, her voice cracks. Emotion, I guess. Unshed tears making her throat ache, maybe.

A slam poet, she's disparaging the black man who has left her for a white woman. He has chosen a thin-lipped blonde, a woman at whose feet he once served.

I lay beneath you on the ship from the motherland, covered in your waste. White men raped me. I watched as my babies were ripped from my breast and sold. I saw you lynched. I dug your grave after circumstance spat you out and you dare leave me... for that.

As she is berating her man, the predominantly black crowd is cheering, applauding, leaping from their seats to deliver praise. I am in the corner, wincing. Her words are undeniably powerful. She will surely win this competition. I can almost believe she was once a slave, that she has somehow moved through time to be on this stage. Her curse for immortality is the inability to forget.

Indeed, we must remain aware. Nonetheless, I cannot and will not chastise a man who loves outside his race because that man is my father. My white father and black mother are breath together. Love. Nearly 44 years of friendship and making a marriage work despite the rigors of life.

My father, called devil by some, did not rape my mother. I am not the product of hate, of discord, an open secret wandering between the slaves and the masters. I struggle with my biracial identity in a way I cannot entirely explain, but that isn't to say I feel stranded, trapped, or lost, some victim of the woeful wail that asks, "But what about the children?" I know and like that I'm different. My intersection of races positions me as both and neither simultaneously.

Because of slavery's legacy, because of beatings, murder, tears, pain, and the fear and fury in trying to escape, I know I must rally. In doing so, however, I will not ignore that a second race lives within me. I have berated myself time and again for not being black enough. Not once have I chastised myself for not being white enough.

I am automatically labeled 'black woman.' I've been asked for the black woman's perspective and looked around to see who the speaker was actually addressing. Oh. Me? Would you be okay with a tan perspective? A light-skinned viewpoint?

When I'm with my mother, there is no question we are related. When I'm with my father, the assumption is that I am adopted.

The young poet sings, her heart breaking for the apparent dissolution of her long-suffering race. I praise her work because it is very well done, but I just don't agree.

I shake my head no even though I am both overseer and slave, casting out my right hand with a whip and holding aloft my left as welts explode across my skin.

I am forever struggling for balance, trying not to be too much of any one thing for fear of losing this precious blend I am in the middle. My footing might not always be solid, but I will not apologize when I stumble.