Black, White, Other Flashback: John Blake

by | Nov 5, 2013 | Word Up

Here’s an excerpt from John Blake’s original interview in Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity, first published in 1994 (and now available in a 20th anniversary expanded ebook edition):

“My brother and I never met our mother. They just told us that she was white, that she was Irish, and she was sick and we couldn’t be with her. That was why we weren’t sent to stay with her and we never saw her. We heard stories that she was alive, but I just took it as no big deal.

What was kind of tough was growing up in an all-black neighborhood in the early seventies. Because of my complexion, I used to get in fights all the time. I didn’t start them; it was other people who wanted to fight me. They would call me white boy, and that was when you had black pride. Kind of like now with the Afro-centric movement, people very much into being black and I wasn’t, I guess, black enough, so I had to get in fights.

When somebody would call me a white boy, I would get so mad, I would get so tense. And I never told anybody what my mother was. We’d get to parts of school where they would ask you to identify the race of your mother and I would never put white. It was too embarrassing. I just lied.

Matter of fact, I grew up with this hatred of white people. It’s a funny thing. We used to go to movies like Superfly, my father used to take us, and you’d see these black heroes just beating up the white man. In my neighborhood white people were symbols of evil. They were rich, they didn’t care, they looked down on us, they thought we were ignorant. I remember thinking when I was maybe ten or eleven, What would I do if a white person walked into my neighborhood? I remember thinking it was my duty to hurt them; that’s how I thought, that was the mentality. I guess it’s weird, ’cause all the while I knew I had a white mother.

So that’s the environment I grew up in, being ashamed of my own mother. I felt like a secret agent and didn’t want anybody to discover my identity. What made matters worse was that my father went down to South America and married a Spanish woman who looked white. When he brought her up to live with us, I wouldn’t walk out in public with her because I was ashamed for my friends to see me walking with a woman who appeared to be white.

Then I’m seventeen years old, and my father comes up to me one day and says, ‘Do you want to see your mother?'” [cont’d.]

To read what John Blake has to say today, click here. (Spoiler alert: you might want to read his full original interview before reading the update.)