Maya Williams, age 20
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
Mother’s Side: West African (African American) descent, German descent, Scotts-Irish descent, and Cherokee descent. [My grandmother has West African and Cherokee descent and my grandfather has German and Scotts-Irish descent]
Father’s Side: African American descent, Scotts-Irish descent, and Chickahominy descent. [My grandmother has African American, Scotts-Irish, and Chickahominy descent and my grandfather had African American descent]
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
On the surface, no. If you look harder, it’s there, just not a lot of diversity.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I grew up in Ft. Washington, Maryland, which is twenty minutes away from D.C. and an hour away from Baltimore. At the age of nine, I moved to Manassas, Virginia. At the age of eleven, I moved back to Ft. Washington. At the age of twelve, I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. At the age of fifteen, I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina. At the age of seventeen, I moved to Greenville, North Carolina to attend East Carolina University. I am in my senior year in my undergrad now.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
My father and my uncle were best friends, and my uncle was dating my aunt at the time. He and my father picked my mother up from college, and that is how my parents first met.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
My mother identifies as mixed race, and my father does not. There was obviously no trouble with in-laws getting along. However, there was the form of tension as far as how they identify goes. They divorced when I was five, not for that reason, more tensions that had nothing to do with that.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL?
My mom’s side has been more supportive than my dad’s side. My dad’s side has been coming along since seeing my work online about how I identify. However, my mom’s side has still been the more supportive side.
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?
My mom's side of the family has a lot of mixed traditions as far as hanging out with one another goes. Also, my mom grew up overseas, so there are some things that she remembers from living in Brazil that she includes in family traditions, especially when birthdays come around, and she would sing the regular happy birthday song, the Stevie Wonder version, and Happy Birthday in Portuguese. My dad's side of the family has a lot of traditions as far as prayer and unity goes, especially drawing from traditional African American Baptist culture.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
I enjoy relating to a significant amount of people in my family, even though it was difficult to at first, growing up. I enjoy being able to relate to a variety of groups of people as far as my background goes: mixed race people, black people, white people.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?Oh, absolutely. Especially with being raised primarily by a mixed race mother, it makes sense that race was a topic in our house, and that all of us, my three siblings included, identify as mixed race most of the time.
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
The greatest thing about multiracial fluidity, is that I can be comfortable with however I want to identify day to day. Most days, I identify as mixed race, multiracial, sometimes biracial, or as black and multiracial. There are a few days when I identify as black. I don’t identify as white often, that’s happened a couple of times. That might change, we’ll see. I acknowledge that I have Native American heritage, but I don’t identify as Native American.
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?
Not really. In my life I have dated white men and mixed race men, but I didn’t forcefully “choose” to date them, if that makes sense.
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
It means that I am a whole person with many fully whole parts. It means that I don’t have to place myself in a binary or in one particular box. It means speaking up whenever I feel “othered” and when people in my life feel that way too. It means embracing every part of my family with open arms. It means loving myself.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?
More so now than when I was younger.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
“Race doesn’t matter to me because I’m colorblind.”
“God is spirit, therefore, God is colorblind.”
“Stop talking about race, no one cares.”
“That’s not where our focus is right now.”
“Oh, God’s not calling me to that right now.”
“You only identify as black when it’s convenient for you.”
“Stop pretending to be black.”
“Stop pretending to be mixed.”
“I don’t see you as [fill in the blank].”
“Maybe people would listen to you if you weren’t so angry.”
“Do you hate your white side with everything going on right now?”
“We’re all mixed, right?”
“This isn’t a race issue, it’s a people issue.”
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
That we don’t have rep sweat when it comes to our entertainment. That we don’t continue to marginalize people because of their race. That systematic oppression ceases.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?
I am studying Social Work and English at East Carolina University. I am a coach for the Interfaith Youth Core, a non-profit that focuses on interfaith cooperation in higher education. I am an editorial fellow for The Tempest (follow us on Twitter and Instagram @WeAreTheTempest), a diverse online forum for millennial women. I have contributed my work to forums such as AltFem Magazine, Black Girl Nerds, Mixed Race Daily, and The Black Sheep Articles. I have been featured in the 100% Mixed Show’s #Mixstory, the Mixed Remixed Festival, and my university’s #ECUWithoutMe campaign to talk about my racial identity. I have been published at my university in Expressions Magazine for two issues, Rebel57, and the research magazine The Lookout. I am applying for graduate school. I have interned with the Creative Aging Network, Hillside Missions, and The Black Sheep Articles. You can follow me @emmdubb16 on Twitter and Instagram, and you can follow my blog flighty101.wordpress.com. Thank you for the opportunity! Thank you for sharing our stories!