Living in the United States, race, color and ethnicity became subjects of reflection like never before in my life. These are matters of great importance in the humanistic fields like education and psychology, and what calls my attention is that these aspects are discussed, analyzed and studied almost detached from the whole of the person “carrying” them, rather than as part of a complex individual.
According to Wikipedia, “multiratial Brazilians make up 42% of Brazil’s population”, which is to say that almost half the population of my country consists of mixed race people. Although the actual number is new to me, my observation pointed towards something like that, and I have taken pride in this perception since the first time I got in contact with the schizoid way race is perceived in the United States. More recently, however, I have realized that the separation has its advantages, and the main one I see is the attachment each people has to their own culture, keeping in contact with their origins, their mother language, their customs and traditions. In one word: roots. I come from Arabs, Amerindian and Portuguese on one side and Lebanese and Portuguese on the other. I love having this rich ancestry, but I know very little of the history and the geography of my family. I wonder if this obliviousness was purposeful on the part of the miscegenating couples to avoid cultural shock.
About ten years ago my sister befriended a group of Arab girls in Sao Paulo whose families kept their breed almost pure. I do not think it was a coincidence that these girls could speak at least a few words of Arabic and knew their ancestors’ history. I became envious of them, I wished I knew more about mine, and I asked my relatives for information. Although I was told about our origins, I can only remember some fragments. I do not know the name of the city my great-grandfather came from – or was it my great-great-grandfather? I can barely pronounce his original name – the one he had before he changed it to be more understandable for the Brazilians – and I do not know any words in Arabic. I know absolutely nothing about my Amerindian ascendence, nor about the Portuguese one.
The other day a friend shared the story of an acquaintance who had been adopted. As we often hear happens with adoptive children, this person my friend knew became uneasy with the unknown and would not rest until she found her birth mother. After she met her, she gladly rejoined her adoptive one and dropped the matter.
I feel a little like the adoptive child, who seeks the lost mother and decides she can be dismissed once they meet. However I still feel the emptiness, the need to belong like these “pure breed” people do. I wonder if other multiracial individuals feel the same, if what happens to me is as common as what happens with adoptive children. That does not solve my personal restlessness, but it would be quite interesting to find out.