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Je Suis Métisse. What Being Biracial Means To Me
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When I hear the word “mixed-race”, I think of the song “Métisse” (“mixed-race”) by French artist Yannick Noah, which starts like this:  I am mixed-race, a mix of colors, I am mixed-race, I come from here and elsewhere! That’s what being mixed-race means for me.

Metise french-english translation

I am of Belgian-Congolese descent. When we think of mixed-race people, we often think of someone with obvious and visible traits, like a child with Black and White parents. Being mixed-race is much more complex than that, and something that extends over several generations, as DNA tests can demonstrate today.

I am an optimistic person by nature and I have always been positive about being of mixed-race. Like with everything else in life, it is necessary to make choices,  and I opted for the positive ones which allow me to feel confident and move forward.

Like with everything else in life, it is necessary to make choices,  and I opted for the positive ones which allow me to feel confident and move forward.

Laini

The author with her sister, Furaha, in the Congo

Congolese Identity

I was born in Congo and I grew up in Belgium, I am thus filled with both cultures. Some people think that mixed-race people are never completely integrated into any of the communities with which they identify. That has never been a problem for me. I embody the richness of two cultures, several environments, several countries (due to my travels), and several languages.

Do not be hard on yourself, surround yourself with people who carry you and help you to be the best version of yourself, and don’t let anybody put you in a box!

Even so, I have a few regrets with regard to my Congolese side. My biggest regret is not being able to master my mother tongue, Swahili, but I am working on it. My second regret is not being allowed to hold dual nationality (the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC does not authorize it). Because I am biologically Belgian-Congolese, I should not have to choose my homeland and be allowed to claim both as my home.

Laini

I left Congo when I was 11-years-old, and I always wanted to return and to remain connected to the country. The Congolese community in Belgium is rather big and I like going to Congolese parties, marriages, birthdays for their atmosphere, their dishes, the traditional clothes that we wear for the occasion… I know that every one of these moments links me to my Congolese ME. I like that and that makes me feel good.

Don't let anybody put you in a box. Click To Tweet

I like the Congolese value of family as community. You are a child of an entire community. I love that at home we always had extra food at the table for  unexpected guests. I’m grateful for the support that you can receive in difficult times sometimes from perfect strangers (the friend of a friend of your aunt from the village), and let’s not even mention my passion for Congolese food!

Laini

The things I do not like nor agree with from the Congolese culture are the patriarchy and the way they wait for things to magically happen.  I do not understand the contradictory behaviour that people can have:  the solidarity of the Congolese community during hard times (disease, funeral…), with a simultaneous ingrained jealousy of the success of others.

Being true to who you are is an everyday job for everybody; not only for mixed-race people! Click To Tweet

Experiencing Racism

I do not remember ever having to confront direct racism or with anyone thinking they were better than me. But I do know I made efforts to be perceived well, in particular with some elderly people for whom the “colored youth” can be frightening. I made this effort because I know that after the initial fear has gone, we can truly get to know one another and they can see me for who I am, beyond my skin tone. After all, that’s what racism is: the fear of others, of the unknown, a fear which is spread by channels we cannot always control. The social networks, the media feed this fear. Not to mention education, it is at home that we should learn to respect one another as well as our selves. 

Racism is the fear of others, of the unknown, a fear spread by channels we cannot always control. Click To Tweet

Message for Mixed-Race Individuals

I would like to conclude by saying that being mixed-race, in all the different forms it can take, is an opportunity. If that becomes a burden, then it is bound to a problem. Thus I wish to deliver a message to other mixed-race people who may be struggling with their identities: Do not be hard on yourselves, surround yourselves with people who carry you and help you to be the best version of you, and don’t let anybody put you in a box! Being true to who you are is an everyday job for everybody, not only for mixed-race people!

Being true to who you are is an everyday job for everybody. Click To Tweet



Que signifie pour moi être métisse 

Quand j’entends ce mot « métisse » je pense à la chanson de  « je suis métisse un mélange de couleurs, je suis métisse, je viens d’ici d’ailleurs ! ». C’est ça pour moi le métissage, je suis une unité constituée de ramifications belgocongolaises.

Je constate que lorsqu’on pense au métissage, on pense souvent à un métissage visible, un mélange entre le noir et le blanc le plus souvent. Le métissage est bien plus vaste, parfois complexe et s’étendant sur plusieurs générations comme le démontrent les tests ADN aujourd’hui.

Je suis de nature optimiste et j’ai toujours bien vécu mon métissage.

C’est comme tout dans la vie, il faut faire des choix et j’ai opté pour le positif, ce qui me tire vers le haut et me fait grandir.

 

Identité congolaise

Je suis née au Congo et j’ai grandi en Belgique, je suis donc imprégnée des deux cultures.

On considère que les métisses ne sont jamais intégrées complètement dans une communauté.

Jamais vraiment blanche, jamais vraiment noire dans mon cas. Je confirme et j’ajoute que ce n’est pas un problème puisque je suis le résultat de deux cultures, plusieurs environnements, plusieurs pays (de par mes voyageurs), plusieurs langues.

Mon premier regret est de ne pas maîtriser la langue de ma mère, le swahili, mais j’y travaille, et mon second regret est de ne pas pouvoir avoir la double nationalité (la RDC ne l’autorise pas) car je suis biologiquement Belgo-Congolaise. Je ne devrais donc pas voir à choisir.

Jamais vraiment blanche, jamais vraiment noire dans mon cas. Click To Tweet

Un enfant n’est pas l’autre. Chez nous, je suis celle la plus tournée vers l’Afrique. J’ai quitté le Congo vers 11 ans et j’ai toujours eu envie d’y retourner et d’y rester connectée. La communauté congolaise de Belgique est assez grande et j’aime me rendre à des soirées congolaises, des mariages, des anniversaires pour ces looks, ces ambiances, ces plats, je sais que tous ces moments m’ancrent dans mon moi congolais. J’aime ça et ça me fait du bien.

J’aime le côté familial congolais, être l’enfant d’une communauté, avoir de la nourriture en trop à table pour celui qui n’était pas attendu, le soutien que vous pouvez recevoir dans des moments difficiles parfois de parfaits inconnus (l’ami d’un ami de votre tante du village) et je ne vous parle pas de ma passion pour la nourriture congolaise !

Les points auxquels je n’adhère pas c’est le machisme et cette façon d’attendre que les choses se passent. Ce que je ne comprends pas, c’est cette solidarité en temps de deuil par exemple, qui contraste avec cette jalousie de la réussite de l’autre fort présente dans la communauté.

Le racisme

Mais je sais avoir fait des efforts pour être bien perçue, notamment auprès de certaines personnes âgées par exemple à qui la jeunesse colorée peut faire peur.

Je ne me souviens pas d’avoir été confrontée à un racisme direct d’une personne pensant être supérieure à moi. Mais je sais avoir fait des efforts pour être bien perçue, notamment auprès de certaines personnes âgées par exemple à qui la jeunesse colorée peut faire peur. Mes efforts c’est parce que je sais qu’après la peur, il y a la vraie rencontre. Parce que le racisme c’est ça, la peur de l’autre, la peur qu’on diffuse par des canaux qu’on ne contrôle pas toujours. Les réseaux sociaux, les médias nourrissent cette peur. Sans parler de l’éducation, c’est dans nos maisons que s’enseignent le respect de l’autre et le respect de soi jusqu’à ce que nous puissions poursuivre par nous-même.

Parce que le racisme c’est ça, la peur de l’autre, la peur qu’on diffuse par des canaux qu’on ne contrôle pas toujours.

Un message pour tous les métisses

Je conclurais en disant que le métissage sous toutes ses formes c’est une chance et si ça devient un fardeau cela est lié à un problème de l’environnement dans lequel on évolue. Donc je souhaite faire passer un message aux métisses tourmentés : ne soyez pas durs avec vous-mêmes, entourez-vous de personnes qui vous portent et vous aident à être la meilleure version de vous-même et ne laissez personne vous mettre dans une boîte!

Ne laissez personne vous mettre dans une boîte! Click To Tweet

The author wrote both (English and French) versions of her article. Content has been edited for clarity and syntactical arrangements to suit most native readers of English. The French version is presented as written by the author with minor editing for clarity. Translation insights were written and provided by Séverine Perronnet. 

 

 

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4 Comments on "Je Suis Métisse. What Being Biracial Means To Me"

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Joli Tropisme
Guest
Nice read. I have almost the same origin ( Belgian and Rwandan for me), i grew up in west Africa and went back in Belgium at 12. Then i left to go back to my other country , Rwanda. I agree with you about fear, but for me the problem is not racism but White privilege. Also some stupids comments about my hair that I always keep natural, the way we live in Africa ( like “do you have lions? ” ” How are your house ?” And i was like WTF?!?), Also some stupid ignorant people refusing to rent… Read more »
Suchitra Shenoy Packer
Admin

Thank you for your comment. Your experiences resonate with many of our readers. I invite you to write for our Magazine. Let us see the world through your lens.

Bethany Edwards
Member

Absolutely wonderful story and love your perspective! Shared in my FB group focused on Multiracial and Multicultural literacy.
https://m.facebook.com/groups/492821577729423

Suchitra Shenoy Packer
Admin

Thank you for sharing:)

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