Kelley Mills + Matt Bengochea

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What are you?

The prefix “multi” has always intrigued me. I think it is because the concept of a “multi” category allows one the freedom not to have to categorize. I mean, how awesome is it to have variety and not have to choose? My family has Native American, African American, and Caucasian heritage. And being from the Southern US, my parents were categorized as African Americans…despite their outward appearance. They graduated from segregated high schools and were treated as African Americans. I was born and raised in the same hometown where they grew up, and I was taught (and in some cases, forced) to identify as African American. Friends used to say to me…“But you don’t LOOK black.” Needless to say, I struggled with identity issues as a multi-ethnic person in an environment where choosing one category was important. Later in life, I finally felt the freedom to no longer fell as though I must categorize into one particular group. And though I have pride in identifying with my African American heritage from a social and cultural perspective, I fully embrace that I am multi-ethnic and multi-dimensional. So, now when people ask me, “What are you?” I answer with a simple response that begins… “I AM ME.”
— Kelley I always joked with my friends that I was “light” not “white.” Half Latino and half white. Just what does that mean? When the name Bengochea precedes me, I am always asked to explain. You don’t necessarily guess my Cuban roots by looking at me, but maybe you should look harder. As a person of mixed race/ethnicity, I have always wrestled with my identity. In certain contexts I feel that I am not Hispanic enough and in others, I feel like I am not expressing myself completely unless I reference my mixed ethnicity. As I get older, I become more comfortable in these situations and learn to embrace the fullness of who I am. In a black and white society I am the grey; I am other; I am what cannot be clearly defined.


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