Mark Durrow

by | Oct 2, 2013 | What BWO Interviewees Say Now

Age: 42
Residence: Portland, OR. When I was 28 I decided to move back to Denmark. I had 9 job interviews and a place to stay for 30 days. Somehow I made it work. I lived in Copenhagen for 6-1/2 years working for IBM and attempted to find out what it meant to me to be Danish. I found that I am as much DANISH-African American in America as I am Danish-AFRICAN AMERICAN when in Denmark. I also found out that I am “OK” with that. Even if I am just a culture of one it is still part of the great diversity of culture that makes up the USA. I moved back to the States in 2006.
Occupation: I am a network security engineer focused upon security solutions for financial institutions. The best way of explaining it is to tell people that I’m one of the people who make it so they can bank from home, get a car loan, pay bills online, and use an ATM and know that their money is safe.

Have your attitudes towards race and/or identity changed since you were interviewed for BWO? I think that racial identification means even less to me today then it did when I was younger. That isn’t to say that I don’t know that it still exists and that it can both help and harm people with its power; it is to say that I feel the validity of the argument that one is or isn’t of a racial group has even less meaning then it did before. When Senator Obama first started running for the Democratic nomination, there were even some people asking if he was “really black” or “black enough.” There is no definition as to what it takes to be counted as black…or white for that matter. “Black people” used to be described as being from this or that country, or town, or village or tribe. “White people” used to be described as French, or German, English or Dutch, from this town or that community. In the history of human society, the definitions of “black” or “white” is relatively new and nobody can seem to agree exactly what makes someone one race or another. We take general physical attributes and say if enough of them show up together you must be of a specific ethnic group. In truth there are black people who are lighter in hue than Mitt Romney, and white people who are darker then I am. When someone asks me what race I am, I have to ask them what they mean by race. What does it mean to be black, or white?

Something that’s stayed the same? The one thing that has stayed the same is that I am still learning. I haven’t passed on the lessons that I have learned regarding race to the next generation, but I can show the world my views in how I treat the people around me, and I can learn from them. I am still open to new views and ideas, and I hope that I always will be.

Any ways you’ve seen our society evolve in terms of attitudes about mixed race people? In ways, I think my wishes that more families had people of other ethnic backgrounds in them is coming true. When I look on social media sites like Facebook and see the pictures of family members of friends that I thought long lost, I see pictures of children and sometimes grandchildren who are more like a Benetton add than a single hue of people you would see in the 70s when I was born. When I walk down the street, I am not the only person with tan skin and a look that isn’t easy to pigeonhole. People no longer ask me “what are you,” but rather “who are you.”

Did anything significant happen as a result of participating in this book? The only thing that happened to me was when I read the book and felt the lives of the other people who shared of themselves. It helped me to see that the issues that I was dealing with were shared by others, both the good and the bad. It helped me to not only see paths that I took and how others traversed them but also the paths that I didn’t take. I always knew that I was lucky, but in reading the book I saw even more clearly how my mother was the one who protected me, guided me and raised me to understand that I am who I am and I cannot be defined by others unless I give them that power. Where some kids were pushed to decide which race they were, or left flapping in the wind in their quest to discover their own answers as to who they were, I was lucky enough to have a guide who both protected me from the worst and gave me the freedom to discover who I am in my own way.

Any general comments? With the birth rate going the way it is, the next book will have to be titled “Other, Black, and White” as we “others” will be the largest group.