Zebras, Half-breeds and Oreo Cookies

Kori - Fremont, Nebraska
Entered on April 6, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: race
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Zebras, Half-breeds and Oreo Cookies

I was twelve years old when I realized I’m not Black. That probably seems like a really strange thing to say, but it’s true. Everyone experiences a time in life when something dramatic happens: A turning point. It’s like that poem by Robert Frost that says “two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.” Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was about to travel a road less traveled and yes, it, I realize now, made all the difference.

When I was in the seventh grade I had a crush on a boy in my class. This boy was cute and popular. We were friends. At least, I thought we were. He is White and when he found out I had a crush on him everything changed. I became Kori, the Zebra who sat in front of him in class. That year was the worst year of my life. Nearly everyday I was greeted with a litany of names all focusing on the simple fact that my mother is White and my father is Black.

Until the age of twelve my parents raised my brother and me as Black children. Things were different now. I had to figure out who I was. If I could figure this one thing out, I could handle anything life threw my way.

The first serious boyfriend I had is White. I remember everything about him: the color of his hair, the color of his eyes, the way the corners of his mouth curled when he smiled. I remember how we met. Everything was perfect. Okay, not everything. This sixteen-year old boy’s parents threatened to kick him out of the house if he didn’t stop seeing me. My father offered to take him in temporarily if this happened. That was when I learned concretely what my family was all about.

I grew up with parents who always took in “Strays.” If you needed a home, our door was open. People crowded our house on all the holidays when there was nowhere else for them to go. All this from a couple of Atheists. Go figure.

By the time I entered college I knew who I was. It didn’t matter anymore what other people thought. As far as I am concerned, the world had to accept me on my terms. I learned that I had the best of both worlds if I made the choice. I learned accepting myself is a far greater thing than accepting others.

I would be lying if I said it was fun or easy all the time, but I would also be lying if I said the worst of these experiences wasn’t worth all that I learned. I am married now. Someone asked me if I married a White man or a Black man. I smiled and asked, “Are those my only choices?”