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Essay: Double Identities

the Boekelmann Family. From left to right ( Max Mic Joachim and Luisa). Photo by Delonte Harrod.
The Boekelmann Family, l-r : Max, Mic, Joachim and Luisa. Photo by Delonte Harrod.

 

By Delonte Herrod

Brave, loving, compassionate, intentional, accepting and compromising — these are the words that come to mind when I think about the interracial married couples and biracial people I interviewed for my documentary project “Double Identities.”

Over the course of three months while earning my master’s degree, I had the chance to document the lives of four interracial married couples and one biracial, or more accurately triracial person.

The couples were selected both strategically and accidentally. Usually, because of our nation’s history of racism, when we talk about interracial marriages and biracial people we are often only recognizing two combinations: a Caucasian female with an African-American male, or an African-American female with a Caucasian male.

I wanted to steer away from that combination, but was a bit unsuccessful. I ended up photographing and interviewing a German and Asian married couple, two families with a racial makeup of African-American and Caucasian who had children, a Jamaican-American and Caucasian married couple with no children, and an Egyptian-Canadian-American female.

These people invited me into their homes for about three hours each, and I spent some time photographing a slice of their lives. The subjects included an international painter and lawyer, a booming real-estate agent and housewife, a social worker, and a world traveler.

The goal of the project was to tell the stories of these people from a particular point of view. I wanted to know about these people’s challenges as a family and what it was like for them to be in an interracial marriages or live as biracial or triracial individuals in the United States. The desire to seek out the answers to these questions came from my initial motivation for doing this project. I realized that at some-level we are all multi-racial in our nation, and our nation is becoming more and more diverse.

Interviewing people, I soon realized that they have chosen to love each other when it was unfashionable for them to do so. Initially these couples entered into a relationship without knowing the challenges of being in relationship with someone very different from themselves. Being a biracial, tri-racial, third-culture kid isn’t easy. These kids often have a hard time “fitting in”. There has to be ongoing discussion in interracial marriages about how parents are going to deal with the challenges of their child’s possible identity crisis. Some parents are still trying to figure out their spouse’s culture and way of communicating.

But aren’t these problems all married couples and teenagers find themselves going through? The answer is yes and no. It is true that within marriage people are still trying to discover each other, but it’s very different when you’re trying to understand the language your father-in-law speaks. It’s very different when your spouse’s identity is formed, and still determined, by his community when your concept of community was ditched when you left home at 18 years of age.

The relationships are challenging but also deep, and they demonstrate to us all what it means to intentionally love people , despite their skin-color and background.

To view more photos, visit the Double Identities website.

Written by
Krystal Knapp

Krystal has been a journalist in the Trenton area since 1999. A graduate of Smith College and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is from Detroit. She likes baseball, cats, jazz, ukulele, typewriters, chai, and good coffee. Follow her @planettrenton.

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Written by Krystal Knapp