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“My sister used to call me the white baby,” Ashley says.

“They would joke that I was adopted because I didn’t look like the rest of my siblings.” “We have an expectation in society of what a black person should look like, or what a white person should look like,” says Sarah Gaither, Ph.

But race is an exception to the rule—and not all forms have a “check all that apply” option. Combining black and white ancestry is about much more than how that DNA affects your skin tone or hair texture.

The fraught history between the two races can present myriad struggles mentally and emotionally for those grappling with being a blend of both.

Growing up, Heikkinen struggled with hating the white part of herself.

It’s the part of her that everybody sees—something she often resents because of the automatic assumptions people make.

Although her physical appearance doesn’t fit the expectation of “black” in America, she says she identifies with both races equally.

As a child she wished she had darker skin so she could encounter the same experiences as her mother, brother, and sister, who are all a few shades darker. ” Ferguson has fair skin, brown eyes, and dark curly hair, but her older sister, Ashley Ferguson, is more white-presenting with pale skin, green eyes, and red hair.

She noticed the stares of other people whenever she was with her mom and siblings, as if she didn’t belong. Ashley, like Heikkinen, sometimes felt alienated from her family because of her physical appearance.

“I read comments about being a strong black woman, and I’m like, , because I’ve never had to be, because I don’t look black.” But the experience of being a “Becky” or a white girl isn’t something authentic to Sneed either.

She was raised by her white mother, but lived in an area with a larger black population.

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