What Color Am I? A True Story About Race Identity and Racism.


I have never been able to understand racism. Not even when I lived in an all-white town and believed that I, too, was 100% white.

If racists were a tiny minority group, then I might understand it. I would believe they were mentally ill. Their thinking is screwed up because their brain isn’t working right. (Yes, I know how ironic this is, considering that I have a diagnosis of PTSD!) But so many otherwise “normal” people are rabidly racist — WHY? It makes no sense to me.

I grew up in a small town in southwestern Missouri. One day when I was five years old, my mother took me to see the doctor. Ahead of us, in the waiting room, sat a beautiful dark skinned family: a mother, a father, and two small children. They were sitting near the receptionist’s desk, in the area where everyone usually sat.

I went to the doctor a lot in those days, due to recurring bouts with tonsillitis and bronchitis. So I knew that people in the waiting room typically sat close to the receptionist. But on this day, all of the light skinned people were sitting as far away as possible from the dark skinned family, way down by the exit door.

My mother grabbed my hand and, after checking me in, took me back to sit by the exit door, too. All of the seats near the door where the nurse takes you through to see the doctor, were empty.

The Caucasian people looked very stiff, uncomfortable, and angry, including my mother. The dark skinned family looked terrified. It brings tears to my eyes even now, remembering the awful, deer-caught-in-headlights expression on their faces.

This happened in 1958, sixty years ago. Only white people lived in that small Missouri town back then. Shortly after this doctor visit, I heard my dad tell my mom that some…. he used the horrible “N” word…. had been “run out of town.”

My dad, a church pastor in those days, often talked in a racist way. But I never understood his racist talk at all. You see, my cat was black with white paws and a wide white stripe down the middle of her face. She had three kittens. One was black and white, like his mother, one was orange striped, and another was calico. No two kittens in the litter were the same color. But they were all equally soft and furry, they all had little sandpaper tongues and needle-sharp claws, they all had tiny, ticklish whiskers, and they all purred and mewed. What difference did their color make?

As for me, I look Irish. I have a zillion freckles, green eyes, naturally gray hair that used to be naturally blonde, and pale white skin under my dark freckles. So you could say that I am polka dotted! But despite all the dark spots on my skin, I believed that I was 100% Caucasian, until my dad called me one day when I was twenty-four years old to tell me the “family secret.” One of my sisters, he said, had found an old photo album and had learned the truth, that our paternal grandfather was 1/2 black. My dad said that his paternal grandmother was a full blooded African American. This meant that my father was 1/4 black — a “quadroon,” as they used to say — and I was 1/8 black, an “octaroon.”

My dad thought he was telling me a shameful thing, but I was absolutely thrilled! I thought this made me special! And more than ever, I could not understand the racist talk I had heard while growing up.

Three years ago, I had my DNA analyzed by ancestry dot com, and recently I also had it done by 23andMe. When I first had my DNA tested, I could scarcely wait to get my profile back and see the proof, on paper, that I am 1/8 black. Maybe, I thought, I have even more African American blood than just 1/8th? How cool would that be!

But my racial profile is nothing like I expected. I can’t begin to tell you the loss, the sorrow, the PAIN I felt to get my DNA results and learn that I am, at most, only about 1% African. According to my DNA, I am at least 98.9% Caucasian. Being “1/8 black” was so much a part of my identity, for so long, to have that taken away in an instant was very disorienting. Knowing that I am, in fact, only about 1/100 African feels like a terrible loss. And yet, one white person, on learning the results of my DNA, told me I should be relieved.

What is wrong with people, that anyone would think racism is right? We are all human beings, we have all been created by the same Almighty God, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US was made in His image.

I simply do not understand racism. Not because I am a saint — God knows that I have fallen and sinned so much, in so many ways, over my lifetime. But discriminating against people because of the color of their skin or hair or eyes is simply Not Logical.

This post was inspired by Martin Luther King’s Day, and also by the following blog article by Minister Aldtric Johnson, M.A.:

Photo of Cat With Multi Colored Eyes can be found here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/384917099374399093/

36 thoughts on “What Color Am I? A True Story About Race Identity and Racism.

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee January 15, 2018 / 9:10 am

      You are so welcome, my friend.
      I just checked the population statistics for the town where I grew up. According to the current People Stats on Sperling’s Best Places, not much has changed in sixty years. Today, 90.94% of the population are white, 1.56% are black, 0.74% are asian, 1.15% are native american, 0.00% claim ‘Other’, and 3.55% claim hispanic ethnicity (meaning 96.45% are non-hispanic).
      I don’t understand it. I think that ultimately, it all comes down to sin. “They will know we are Christians by our love. ” Where is that in the bible? I am sure you know!


      • Minister Aldtric Johnson M.A. January 15, 2018 / 9:18 am

        Wow! That’s pretty close to the demographics of my hometown of Lexington TN. I think you are talking about John 13:35…
        John 13:35 (NKJV)
        By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
        BE BLESSTIFIED my friend:-)

        Liked by 2 people

  1. atimetoshare.me January 15, 2018 / 11:52 am

    Lovely post Linda. I’ve never had my DNA tested but would not be surprised that I have Native American blood. My long lost granddad lived in Canada during the early part of the 20 century and was a tailor by trade. His family was from Ireland and I believe they traded up there. The point you make is so true. We are all cut from the same cloth / created by the God of the universe. We should embrace all races.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee January 15, 2018 / 7:22 pm

      Thank you, Kathy!
      One of my great-grandmothers on my mother’s side told me that her father was part Cherokee. But no Native American has been found in my DNA, either. However, in researching the mystery of my heritage, I have learned that we only inherit a random 50% of DNA from each parent. For this reason, entire races can eventually disappear from our genetic code.

      Liked by 2 people

      • atimetoshare.me January 15, 2018 / 7:42 pm

        Interesting 😜

        Liked by 1 person

      • lynettedavis February 4, 2018 / 9:18 pm

        I had my DNA tested several months ago. And it makes me wonder who my paternal father is too. I’m still fairly new to DNA testing. But it’s my understanding that no two siblings will inherit the same DNA, even though they have the same parents. I’m curious though, with respect to your DNA matches, did you receive any matches from your paternal side of the family?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote February 4, 2018 / 11:26 pm

          No, I haven’t seen any matches to the paternal side of my family. I have found matches to the maternal side.

          After reading your memoir, what you say here doesn’t surprise me.

          ***Update added January 19, 2018: I got an email a few days ago notifying me of a very close DNA match on 23andMe, with a woman who is my dad’s half sister. So now I know for sure that the man I called “daddy” as I was growing up, really was my biological father.

          It’s a relief to have this mystery solved. With my DNA test results showing that I am not 1/8 black like I had expected to be, after my dad told me that he was 1/4 black, I thought it was a real possibility that my late father wasn’t my biological dad. But apparently he was just misinformed about his racial profile.

          Liked by 1 person

          • lynettedavis February 5, 2018 / 12:34 am

            Me either–as to discovering matches to the paternal side of my family…

            Liked by 1 person

      • lynettedavis February 4, 2018 / 9:29 pm

        It’s interesting how many people grew up believing they were part Native American, only to find out from their DNA tests that they don’t have any Native American blood, or only a very small percentage.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. adamjasonp January 15, 2018 / 6:35 pm

    I think racism mostly comes from the fear of the unknown, with inadequate/inaccurate explanations to fill in the gaps. Selective trust… cultural and circumstantial hyperbole, conflation. I remember a student in my high school who got parts from his car stolen; he pinned it on their race as they were PoC. But that’s on the individual level.

    Society tends to judge a book by its cover. It is raised that “you can’t trust them,” despite the attested reality that most people are good. The city life can force people to live around one another, but a small, if not isolated town? That can host a lot of unknowns.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee January 15, 2018 / 7:09 pm

      What you said here makes a lot of sense! I just don’t understand why I never “caught” the racism bug. Maybe it really was my multi-colored kittens that taught me. Or maybe it was the terrible, painful FEAR that I saw on the faces of that beautiful dark-skinned family. They became very real, very human, to me in that moment.

      Even at the age of five, I understood fear, only too well. My trauma memories begin with my earliest childhood memories, prior to the age of three. And the abusers in my life weren’t dark-skinned strangers, they were my very own light-skinned parents.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lynettedavis February 4, 2018 / 9:33 pm

        So glad you didn’t! You have too much compassion to dislike someone (or something) simply because of the color of their skin. Bless you Linda.

        Liked by 1 person

        • lynettedavis February 4, 2018 / 9:40 pm

          And thank you for sharing this encouraging post with me. I felt so bad about the black family in the dentist office. I’m so glad you didn’t let the beliefs of the small town where you grew up taint your spirit. Stay true to who you are–a child of God.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. bethanyk January 16, 2018 / 2:47 pm

    Awesome post!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. luckyotter January 16, 2018 / 3:24 pm

    Reblogged this on Lucky Otters Haven and commented:
    I love this post about racism by my friend Linda Lee, and want more people to read it. I was surprised by what she found out about herself, but I think it’s so cool!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. shiarrael January 17, 2018 / 12:21 pm

    Came here via Lucky Otter’s reblog and just wanted to say – great post!

    I can so relate to the excitement you describe at being an “octaroon” – as a child I was also endlessly fascinated with the possibilities of exotic, special people in my family tree. Alas, not much luck. There might be some Louisiana Creole in mom’s family, but it’s long, long ago. Just as there might be a dash of Haudesonaunee in dad’s family, but again almost impossible to track down.

    Everything else, as far as I know, is boringly white. Although I’ve since regained a bit of that excitement by tracking down some of my European ancestors’ roots – there are fascinating stories to be found there, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady Quixote/Linda Lee January 17, 2018 / 10:51 pm

      Hello! Welcome! I had to look that word up. Here is what I found: The Iroquois people called themselves the Haudenosaunee, meaning “People of the Longhouse.”
      Fascinating! And you are right, there are some very interesting stories to be found in the histories of our “boringly white” ancestors.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. VictorsCorner January 21, 2018 / 9:24 am

    Thank you for sharing your personal story on racism. I particularly fancied the following summation:

    “What is wrong with people, that anyone would think racism is right? We are all human beings, we have all been created by the same Almighty God, and EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US was made in His image.”

    Please allow me to use it in my upcoming post on race.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote January 31, 2018 / 3:46 am

      As I commented on your post just now, you are an amazing writer. I agree with everything you said in your post. I wish it were different. It SHOULD be different. But it isn’t. Not yet, anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. lynettedavis February 4, 2018 / 9:19 pm


    Liked by 1 person

  8. https://glenniswritingabc.wordpress.com March 7, 2018 / 3:48 pm

    Hi. When I was a teen I read the autobiography, ‘Black Like Me, which shocked me. The author gradually changed his skin colour to be dark, to experience for himself the affect prejudice against a race is really like. You would appreciate reading it, as it highlighted to me the cruelty of prejudice.

    Liked by 1 person

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