Skip to content

Exclusion at the Intersection

May 30, 2023

by Drew Pauly, Volunteer Manager

I want to talk about a topic we don’t often hear spoken of in the world of DEI – those that, like me, are biracial. It’s an experience that merits a conversation as we are a part of the communities that often get mentioned. Here at Inclusive Communities, we have a practice called Community Agreements. These are shared guidelines for fostering dialogue in a healthy way. The one I am using for this blog is to speak from your experience. This piece is in no way comprehensive of all of the nuances that impact DEI work, nor is it – or I – expected to represent a non-monolithic identity group.

I grew up the youngest of two kids from my mom’s side. She is German and Italian. My biological father is a Black American of Nigerian and Ghanaian descent. Most people in the States see me and see only a Black man. They do not see the cultural diversity of my ethnic background. My dad wasn’t a part of my upbringing; I didn’t have an opportunity to learn about and be immersed in black culture growing up. I was raised by the white Italian side of my family in predominantly white environments. Early in my childhood, my mother moved my older brother and me to Italy because her then-husband needed to return for his work. I didn’t return to the States until I was nearly 18. I have always identified as Italian and Black.

Growing up, I was always the odd one out. I didn’t look like my cousins, I didn’t have the same experiences, and I didn’t feel like I belonged. I was constantly trying to figure out where I fit in. Once I returned to the States and met my biological father, I started to learn more about my African American heritage. I connected with my father’s side of the family, and I began embracing my biracial identity. Much of my initial learning of my Black identity is thanks to Big Mama’s daughter Ms. Gladys and her kids, who taught me what only a Black mother could teach. She provided a space where I felt a sense of belonging.

However, I still faced challenges. I was often excluded from both black and white communities. I was told that I wasn’t black enough and that I wasn’t white enough. Outside of that safe space, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I remember years after being back in the States and having acclimated to life here, my own biological father telling me that I had never experienced racism, even though I had. I experienced racism not only as a person seen as Black but also as the son of a system-impacted black man and the impact of his own subjugation to systems of oppression.

It wasn’t until I started speaking up about my experiences that I felt I was seen and heard. I started connecting with other biracial people and feeling like I belonged. I realized that I wasn’t alone. There are millions of biracial people in the world, and we all share similar experiences. We are all trying to figure out where we fit in, and we are all trying to find our place in the world. I am proud to be biracial. I am proud of my African American heritage, and I am proud of my Italian heritage. I am proud of my unique perspective and my ability to connect with people from all walks of life. Having experienced exclusion at the intersections of diversity allowed me to navigate intercultural dynamics in a way only biracial people can.

I recognize my privileges due to my proximity to whiteness and what that means for me when engaging in the broader conversations surrounding race and gender in America. That is what really motivated me to dive into Black feminism. Here’s where I’ll wrap up this quick blog post because the conversation about allyship in black feminism is a blog post for another time.

I am a biracial man, our voices are valid, and I am here to stay.

Sign up for our email newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.