‘You don’t have to look black to be black’: The complex racial identity of a tiny Ohio town
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‘You don’t have to look black to be black’: The complex racial identity of a tiny Ohio town

October 7, 2019


With a lot of the people that live out here,
you probably wouldn’t take them to be black people. You might not look black
but you got the black blood into you. My name is Roberta Jeannette Oiler but I
go by Bert for a nickname. I’ve lived here all my life. On my job that I had worked at,
they took me to be white and my best friend
she took me to be white. She was shocked when I told her I’m not white. I am black. I am a black person. And it was, ‘Well you’re not that,
you think you are’, ‘No I know I am, I was raised that way,
but I was also raised, as Mom would say,
‘It doesn’t matter what colour your skin is we all serve one God.’ Now as you know, this is my home. Over here is my daughter’s home, Jessica. Everybody else in here, we’re all kin
folks. That’s how this community got to be mixed with white and black. It was from the black children,
our children going out marrying white and bringing them in. A lot of them was as light as I am but we still said we were black, and then we
had some real dark ones but that’s OK. They were black, we were black. So that’s how this all got started. My grandma, she was half
Turk [Native-American], half black. My grandpa was a white man. My mom registered me as black. My mom was a … she wasn’t as fair
complected as I am. She was a light tan brown. My dad, he has German, Irish, white … While his mother was a white woman. His dad was a coloured man,
and then as I grew older and I got married and I had my children, I registered
my children as black. Most of them in this area goes as black. We’ve got maybe two,
three families that consider themselves being white, but the rest of
us in here, we consider ourselves being black. You know this country is prejudiced, always has been and it never will grow out of it. I was in the service in ’66 and I circled,
‘black, Negro.’ He said,
‘You can’t circle that’, I said, ‘That’s what I am.’ Well, he kind of smiled and he said, ‘Circle this.’ I said, ‘OK, which meant Caucasian.’ I didn’t show my colour but I know what I
was and I’m not going to deny my race. My mom raised me as Negro. Oh I had a lot of
people ask me say, ‘Why did your mom raise you as a Negro?’ I said, ‘That’s what I am.’ They said, ‘Yeah but you don’t show it.’ They said, ‘There will come a time where whites won’t accept you and the Negroes won’t accept you.’ I said, I’ll wait it out. It’s about all you can do. Growing up I was always taught
that I was black. I started into school and didn’t really think much about it until
I got into the elementary, I’m going to say around about third or fourth grade,
that’s when I started noticing the difference. I started noticing I was
being taught that I was black but I didn’t look black. Other children didn’t
view me as black, even some of those other kids made fun of me because, ‘Why are you saying you’re black when you’re white.’ It was until I reached about
junior high and then I realised I’m white. That is what I am. Yes, I know I was
raised black and was told I was a black, but I am white. What black person has blond hair, blue eyes
and fair complected and can hardly tan besides burning? I’m white. You don’t have to look black to be black. I know she don’t look black
but she has got black in her … She’s right, she’s got a lot
of different kind in her but I am her mother, I stand on the black. She did not stand,
only for so long of a time she stood as for black. When she got into
school, into Waverly school, she let the people in Waverly change her thinking,
her feeling. I didn’t. I still stood for what I was,
what my mother told me I was. I didn’t care what I had to go through,
I still stood for it. When I finally made
the decision to go as white, I did feel guilty about it, it did in a way break my heart … It’s nothing against my family and it doesn’t mean that I don’t like black
people or love black people or care for black people. I do and like I told her, I
can’t be racist and I know that and I would never want to be even if even if I
chose to be, I couldn’t. I don’t want that for myself or for my children. You’re never going to get to the top
of that mountain, I’m telling you. The black blood in you
it’s going to stay there, and whether you want to accept it or not
there is going to be people to pick it out of you, whether you mention East Jackson or not. I went to a doctor in Waverly a couple good years back,
and on that application it asked my race and I put black. The woman come out
and said to me, how can you be black? And I kind of stared at her
because she throwed me off. She said, ‘I have never seen a black person, fair
complected, blue eyes, freckles and red hair.’ I said, ‘Well surprise, you see her now.’ And she wanted to change my race. She was aiming on marking
out the black and putting white and I told her, ‘Don’t you do
that, I know what I go by, I know what I am, you leave it there.’ I will never ever, ever deny my race for what my mother had brought me up
and raised me and had put me as. I will always be that until the day I leave this earth.

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  1. I guess you would need to understand we are all HUMAN.

    Mexican: human
    Asian: human
    White: human
    Native: human

    At this day an age, race should not matter ( be a cause to segregate ) but to be celebrated.

    I pray for they day in which we all understand we are 1 and the day to come I. Which we learn to love una genuine form not for how you look, but what you bring to the table.

  2. Folks with these mixes should make their way to Louisiana, you find EVERY skintone here claiming every background, being themselves. Just always remember who is at the top of the power structure. PEACE family.

  3. No matter what color we are, we all have red blood. Wish all of us could learn to just get along with each other😔

  4. I’m dark skin, and a clear descendant of Africans. I never knew some people went through this. I guess bc the world will always see me as black bc it’s clearly obvious, I never gave much thought to those who fight be to recognized as such too. Wow

  5. She looks mixed. That's nice that she lives next to her daughter. Mama has some albino Jean in her and Breny might not be able to tan because she also has a Lil of the albino Jean also. Every one just be loving and know we all need to respect and learn and cherish all different races and colors.

  6. If your African ,your African . I'm West African and European and Indian. Parents were born in Guatemala and I was born in Florida .

  7. I don't care what ya register as, yal white. Ya family pic had no1 black in it & ur pops is white so yal white. And aint no way yal was raised like normal "Black" folks, no way yal go nor went threw tha same struggles as us. Yal mixed, with yal mixture being 90% European so yal white & yals DNA will say tha same

  8. No disrespect but she is White even if she’s black. I hope they look at yourselves as great Americans 🥰😘❤️✝️🙏😇🇺🇸 I do ❤️🙏🇺🇸

  9. This is more nuanced. White people are offshoots from blackness, albinism created this. The problems here is the construct of race and optics. It’s really problematic. The system is ridiculous. There are black people with freckles red hair and blue eyes…it’s the most ridiculous way to react to another human being based on optics. There is no biological difference between the races but melanin or the lack of it.

  10. All that “black” but not one ounce of rhythm or soul in their music, lol they’re mixed & that’s absolutely fine. I love the pride in black culture, but take pride in all your races & ethnicities. We’re not in the one drop rule times anymore..

  11. She sounds ignorant and uninformed. You can't 'go by' or 'be raised' or choose to be black. You are or you aren't. And they are not. Yes they may have black ancestors and some African blood but they are not black.

  12. Sometimes I really wonder about America. A strange country with very strange ideas about race. Very strange indeed.

  13. However, I do admire her resolution to stay "black" (I don't even know what that means anymore). She certainly wins my admiration for her doggedness and her standing for what she believes in.

  14. I have African-American DNA but that doesn't make me "black." It's actually racist to say all African-Americans are black.

  15. She is black. That's simple. A black person knows. I have alot of full black relative look just like her. I look Mexican. The only one came out light skinned. The rest blue black. I'm not gonna say I'm Mexican because I look. Mexicans .Cubans. Puerto Ricans all claim. It's a compliment to me. Kinda funny though

  16. Blue eyes also come about when a person of African ancestry has Caucasian relatives on both sides of the family who are carriers of the gene for that particular eye color.

    Apart from genetic mutation, blue eyes can also be caused by Waardenburg Syndrome. ONLY a black woman carries the EVE Gene in her Mitochondrial DNA which means Black Women are the ONLY females on EARTH that can give birth to every single RACE of people, every color, every shade, different eye colors, textures etc.

  17. Black peolpe can give birth to peolpe like this white peolpe just don’t know this why they need to start paying more attention

  18. Reminds me of my grandma. Very light, green eyes and Sandy hair but no matter what she always said she was a strong black woman. Not a strong light skinned woman. I thank her for her strength.

  19. That’s right, your dads dad is black.. black makes all colors, but mixing with white people of course will lighten u up. Shared!

  20. I love that she is embracing her black blood but also the fact that she denies being white when white is based on color not really on background , because still if she went there she’d have white priveleged, having an extremely light complexion

  21. How can anybody argue with that. She identifies herself as a black woman. Which she is genetically. But her daughter knows she is off a black mother but she sees herself as white woman. Which she does physically. None of these women are wrong. But it is wrong for someone else to pick out what you identify as. It’s very sad because this can break families up.

  22. I somewhat identify with this. I learned that some of my ancestors were mixed Melungeons from Virginia who worked their way up to the New York side of Lake Champlain.
    I don't identify as "black" but I am very proud of the hardships and sacrifices of my enslaved ancestors, and am making plans to visit Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon to celebrate my heritage (in addition to France, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

  23. I am pro black 1000 percent, but I overstand and respect a person who stands for something and won't fold and respects the words of her mother to stand with us against all odds. Her and the lady singing I can tell have close African blood. We must realize all white people have black ancestors some just a little more recent then others similar to this case

  24. Sooo she’s bi racial? Or just a white person but she identifies as black because of the people she was around ?

  25. Her daughter is white. She has the right to choose caucasian if she feels that she identifies with that race.

  26. I meant a kid in high school who looked 100% White to me. However, she secretly told me that her Momma is a brown-skinned Black woman. She could easily pass for white no doubt. So, she chose to do it. I understood why & respected her decision. I kept her secret & I told NO one at school.

  27. This is so bizzare to me. These people “pass” as white, therefore you are white . The end. Acknowledge your family history and respect your ancestry but why ponder on it?

  28. My husband and daughter goes through the same as part-Hawaiians. They look haole (white), but are also Hawaiian. It sucks having people judge you based on your outside versus understanding what you are!

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