NAME AND AGE
Marcus Isom, age 33
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
My dad is African American
My mom is German
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
Yes. I live in a pocket of downtown Denver (Jefferson Park) that has historically been a Hispanic and African American community. It's one of many downtown neighborhoods experiencing heavy development due to Denver’s explosive population growth.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I grew up in Highlands Ranch, CO. It was about as far from diverse as possible. I didn't have any other mixed friends, and only grew up with a handful of other African American kids. While it lacked diversity, it was a great family environment to grow up in.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
They met in the cafeteria line at their community college in Colorado Springs.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
I would say the biggest obstacles they faced were at work. Both began working at AT&T in the same office environment, and many of their colleagues didn't like that a white woman was with a black man and vise versa. My mother also frequently experienced the underlying racism surrounding her. For example, when we were moving to Denver she went to several high schools to help determine what neighborhood to raise my sister and I in. Littleton is where they wanted to live, but when visiting the high school one of the administrators answered my mom’s question around diversity by assuring her that the student population was majority white.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL? Yes. Both sides of my family couldn't have been more accepting. Both my parents have 10 siblings, and never have I felt my being mixed has impacted their love and support for me. As for my grandmothers, I aspire to be as accepting and loving to people of all walks of life as they both are. As my German grandmother Irmengard always says, “we are all god’s children.”
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?
Yes, but primarily on my mother’s side. Our family is enormous, but we all come together for Christmas. Every Christmas Eve we do a Christmas story play in German with costumes and all. This is something my Grandmother did in church growing up, and continued with her kids once she moved to America. The characters of the play are now passed off to each new generation of grandchildren. This family play has spanned over 50 years.
WERE THERE MULTIPLE LANGUAGES SPOKEN IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD?
My mother would speak German only when around my grandmother, or visiting family from Germany. Like an idiot, I wasn't interested in picking this up as a kid. I speak a little German (mainly from memorizing content from our play), but certainly not enough to carry a conversation.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
This is a difficult question to answer because there is so much I enjoy/appreciate.
Religion: It’s been the backbone to both sides of my family. Both my grandmothers grew up in extremely difficult climates, Nazi Germany and post-WWII, and the segregation era in the US. It was their religion held their families together and allowed them to find positivity and strength when surrounded by horror. The morals and values religion instilled in them continue through the whole family.
Food: my dad was born and raised in Texas, and southern soul food has been and always will be an important part of my life. I mean, fried catfish and greens should be something all people experience. German food - wurst, sauerkraut, knoedle are among my favorite. And like all Germans, beer and chocolate are very close to my heart. Visiting Germany and experiencing all this delicious food outside my grandmother’s kitchen was nothing short of amazing.
Clothing: fashion is something that I enjoy. One thing that's remained consistent since I was in 4th grade is my love for Jordan sneakers. My dad bought me my first pair in 4th grade, and I've been hooked since. While I was growing up I could only wear them for basketball, and today they are strictly a fashion accessory. Almost every male on my dads’ side of the family shares this interest. When in Germany last September for Oktoberfest I did channel my German fashion and bought some Lederhosen. While I felt ridiculous, I wore them throughout Munich the three days I was there. They're quite comfortable.
WHAT ACTIONS DID YOUR PARENTS TAKE TO TEACH YOU ABOUT YOUR DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS?
My parents began bringing me to the MLK parade when I was young to educate me on segregation, and the struggles their families faced to allow the present day opportunities. They frequently encouraged me to talk to extended family to gain their perspectives and experiences growing up black or German. The most powerful action was simply listening to my grandmother’s tell all their amazing stories. Some sad, some funny, some inspiring, but all of them incredible life lessons giving perspective how far things have come in our society.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP? We did have frequent discussions, usually over dinner. Typically these conversations came up due to a situation my sister or I experienced at school or with friends.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?
No. The women I've dated are all over the board when it comes to ethnicity.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
For me it means I've been blessed to experience the beauty of diversity associated with both black and white, and diversity is what embodies our country.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED? IF SO WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THEM?
I do have some friends that are mixed. I've learned that all of us have faced adversity due to the fact our families look outside the norm. Yet it's easy to surround oneself with good people. It's important we embrace all that makes us unique, and when you have good positive people around you they too will embrace everything about you.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
Yes, when people state we are far removed from the civil rights movement, and black people need to stop using race as an excuse for their problems. Typically mainstream problems are far more complicated than that, and thus I find this comment extremely ignorant.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
That we truly embrace what has built and embodied our country, Diversity. When it comes to the issues of color we are far from the finish line. I guess my dream is that when I have kids and they walk into their classroom full of unfamiliar faces and complexions they see opportunity. Opportunity to make friends, smile, learn, grow, and have fun with a group of kids just like them. If we continue to teach our kids to embrace the diversity surrounding them we are heading in the right direction.