My Skin

'A picture is worth a thousand words,' as the adage goes. (You're limited to one page, however.) Select a photograph no larger than 3.5 x 5 inches that represents something important to you, and explain its significance.

My skin. Something biologically insignificant, yet socially so powerful. According to The Scientist magazine on February 18, 2002, those visible traits that humans use to define "race" make up only .01% of our genes. Race, biologically speaking, doesn't exist. But in social terms, race can mean everything.

I suppose if I am to explain my multiracial heritage I should start with my parents. My mom was from upstate New York, where there were only white people. Not that the town had hated people of other races, but it was just a small, isolated town up in the Adirondacks. My dad was from Ohio. He came from a family that was Black, Irish, and Native American. When my parents were married in South Carolina, the justice of the peace gave my mom one last chance to change her mind before she married a Negro.

Growing up I didn't really understand my race. Friends and teachers would ask me, "Bailey, what are you?" I had to explain to them my racial background and then immediately defend my race, because most of the time people did not believe me. I was hurt that people would question my own identity. People would ask if I thought of myself as black or white. I always answered these questions in terms of race,...

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