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I am new here, and have no children yet. I read the motheringdotcommune forums to learn, to soak in information to prepare for the time when my husband and I can have our first child. We want a big family.

There are, however, quite a few things my husband and I need to take care of before we start trying to conceive. One of these things is learning how to control our tempers. The other…is race.

I've never written about race before. I've struggled with the concept of race all my life, but I've always pushed it to the back of my mind. I've made jokes about it. My husband and I have pet names for many races, and though I can make all the promises in the world that we do it in a light-hearted manner, I'm almost certain the race we are teasing at the time would not be amused.

My husband is the "Paddy" and I am the "Yank". We poke fun at each other, and say terrible things about each other's biological father, or lack thereof to be more precise. We are so used to the teasing and the taunting, that we don't even stop to think that this probably isn't healthy. It's definitely something we don't want our children to witness. But it's just so ingrained in the both of us, although we are from two completely different nations, and old habits die hard.

When I look at myself in the mirror…who do I see looking back at me? A short, 5'1" girl with big breasts and hips. I see big, dark eyes and full lips. Big lips for a white girl like me. A semi-wide nose, large nostrils. Small ears and high cheekbones. Medium/light (depending on the season) brown hair. It's soft. I've never dyed it. On the government forms, I check the box "caucasion" and long so much to check "other".

My mama is a mixture of a little bit of everything-French Canadian, German, and Native American on her mother's side, Irish and Scottish on her father's side. Mama was born and raised in the projects in Providence, RI. She went to a school filled with black kids, white kids, Hispanic kids, Asian kids, and all other sorts of kids. She had friends from every race and religion, but she was poor as dirt and insecure about herself…she lost contact with most of her friends when I was born.

My biological father is half Portuguese. His father was born and raised in Portugal, moved to America when he was an adult, and met some white lady who he later married. I don't know where her family is from, but I do know she had a regular Midwestern American accent. My father was young when my mom became pregnant with me, and then with my brother three years later. She was young, too. She decided to grow up and raise her children; he decided to not to.

My mom left him when my brother was still an infant. She went to live with my Aunty Donna who lived in a trashy, rundown apartment building. Downstairs lived a short, but cute and seemingly friendly Puerto Rican guy named Eddie. After taking my mom out on a few dates and promising her the world, she took her two kids and moved in with him. It didn't take long for his temper to reveal itself, but by this time, my mom felt completely trapped. She had two tiny kids and no money. She felt she had no choice but to stay with him. He abused all three of us, both physically and mentally. My little brother and I were constantly called "portuhgee bastards", but at the time, we had no idea what that meant.

I first started understanding racism when I was about five years old. My nana (Irish/Scottish great grandmother) hated Eddie with a vengeance. She called him a "**** mother f*****" and begged my mom to leave him. (Around this time, my Nana's daughter was married to an Italian guy who was beating the crap out of her…Nana often called him a "wap mother f*****". In fact, Nana had a bad name for any race that she didn't like…except for the Irish, of course.) I had no idea what a "****" was, but I somehow knew it had something to do with the fact that Dad's skin was darker than ours.

When I was eight, my biological father threatened my mom with a nasty custody battle that could have potentially ended in him getting my little brother and I for whole summers at a time. At the same time, the abuse she was getting from our "Dad" (Eddie) was getting worse. Mama took my brother and I and fled to Florida to live with her mom, who had previously retired there. About a month later, Eddie followed.

Florida was completely different than Rhode Island. There were about three black kids in my elementary school, and no Hispanic kids. It was strange to me, but oh did I love on the black kids. Somehow I think they reminded me of home, of Rhode Island, and I befriended them quickly.

I don't think I was ready for Middle School. The school was in a poor town about half an hour from where I lived. Contrary to the elementary school I went to, this new school was filled with black, white, and Hispanic kids. I felt like I was back home again! Only this time, it was different. It was hard to make friends with the black and Hispanic kids…they seemed unsure of me. I got called "white milk" and "vanilla" a lot, but I didn't care. I wanted their friendship. I wanted to belong somewhere. I had a few close white friends, too, but I was so in love with the black culture that I often fantasized about being adopted by a black family. I wanted so much to be accepted by them, for them to see me differently than the rest of the white kids, but no matter how hard I tried to fit in, I was usually seen as simply "Missy, that crazy white girl."

When I was 13, I fell head over heels in love with a black boy named Kevin. He was tall and thin, he played basketball and had a little bit of stubble on his chin. We wrote love notes back and forth to each other, and I drew a heart around his face in my yearbook. I would sit next to him at pep rallies and just breathe. He smelled like soap and baby powder. I was truly enchanted by him. Everyone knew he was gonna ask me to be his girlfriend soon…and I all of a sudden had lots of black friends. I was happy. My mom knew about it, and said I was too young for boyfriends, but she'd smile at me when I'd gush to her about Kevin. I was too afraid to tell my Dad…at this point, I didn't know he was really a racist…I didn't understand how he COULD be racist, seeing as he was Puerto Rican and my mom was white, but I remembered how often he used the 'n-word', and so I kept my mouth shut about Kevin.

A while later, I came home from school to a beating from Dad. He was screaming crazy things about black people, calling them awful names, saying stuff that didn't even make sense. Threatened to beat the shit out of me if I ever went out with a black boy, said I'd never be allowed to do anything ever again, said he'd embarrass me in from of my friends, and then threw me into my room by my hair. My diary and my yearbook were open on the floor. There was an "X" on Kevin's face, and underneath it were the words "Big Lips". I sat alone in my room and cried to myself, "But I have big lips, too…"

When Kevin finally wrote me the note asking me to be his girlfriend, I wrote "No.", and everyone was shocked. Kevin gave me a gold bracelet and said that it was supposed to be his first gift to me as his girlfriend. I have the bracelet to this day. My heart was completely broken, as broken as a thirteen-year-old's heart could be.

There were many, many more racist incidents that occurred with my Dad before he finally left when I was sixteen. It seemed like every big crush I got was always on someone I wasn't allowed to date. For the longest time I was only attracted to black guys, then Hispanic guys, then Asian guys. My first real boyfriend was white, but Jewish, and so not even he could escape Dad's racist comments, although miraculously I was somehow allowed to date him.

There was just so much racism all around me. The white kids called the black kids and Hispanic kids derogatory names, the black kids called the white kids and the Hispanic kids derogatory names, the Hispanic kids called the white kids and the black kids derogatory names…I couldn't escape it. Even some of my teachers at school were racist to a point. It made absolutely no sense to me.

And where did I fit into all of this? Well, nobody really knew what to make of me. My skin was light, but my eyes were dark. My features seemed latin-ish. My last name was blatantly Portuguese, and nobody could pronounce it correctly. To Dad, I was just the "portuhgee b****". In fact, I'm pretty sure those were the last words he said to me before he moved out.

When I was nineteen, I knew I had to get away. I had to leave this world of bigotry and racism and hate. I moved to Scotland to attend Aberdeen University as a study-abroad student, and my life changed forever. I met people from all over the world, races of people that I didn't even know existed. Beautiful, wonderful, diverse people. Now this is not to say that racism didn't exist there…it did. But going to Scotland and meeting the world head-on caused me to begin a healing phase in my life. I had fought with myself for so long…trying to figure out what color I was, fighting with myself to identify in a group, any group. Finally, I realized that I just didn't have to identify as white, black, Hispanic, or Asian, because no matter what heritage I had in my bloodlines, to everyone overseas, I was simply "American."

I met my Irish husband while I was visiting Ireland during spring break. His huge Catholic family immediately accepted me as one of their own, although as I said earlier, I'm always identified as "the yank". That's ok, though, I don't mind. For now I'm just content being accepted. I still have a lot to work though in my mind, a lot to process. My husband and I need to work together to eradicate any traces of racism left in our lives before we begin to have children. But we're getting there; it's just gonna take some time.
 
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