I am the seventh-great granddaughter of President James Monroe. I am also the direct descendant of slaves. I am black. I am white. I refuse to choose between the two. I am multiracial, and I am proud.
In their youth, my grandparents could never have imagined the racially integrated nation in which we live today. As a teenager two generations later, I find it equally difficult to imagine the racial prejudice that was once so prevalent in the United States.
Of course, I’m aware of our country’s very real history of discrimination. I’ve read slave narratives and studied the history of Jim Crow. I’ve heard stories from my paternal grandmother, who in the 1960s worked at a restaurant in which she was not permitted to eat, and from my maternal grandmother, who regrets that in protest she did not attend my parents’ wedding. I know that prejudice sadly still exists today. But if I’ve personally been the subject of prejudice, I’ve missed it.
I am the president of Teen Project RACE (TPR), a branch of Project RACE, a nonprofit organization advocating for a “Multiracial” option on all forms that ask a person’s race. Among my siblings, multiracial friends, and the membership of TPR, I find experiences remarkably similar to my own. I’ve observed that, after decades of civil rights progress, today’s multiracial youth are extremely comfortable with their racial identity. We do not find it difficult to identify with more than one race. It is who we are and who we always have been. To us, it is hardly different from being the child of one blond parent and one brunette, or one tall and one short. We feel at ease in our skin—partly a result, I imagine, of not suffering much prejudice in our daily lives, and partly because, to our generation, being multiracial is unremarkable.
We’ve grown up with multicultural Disney princesses and role models of every race. When some of my multiracial peers cast their first-ever votes for president, there will be a multiracial candidate on the ballot. While that would surely surprise all of my ancestors, to me it seems perfectly natural.