This is Florida Voices, a series of ordinary Floridians with extraordinary stories.
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Lola Bond, an active member of the Gainesville theater community and an employee of the University of Florida, is aware of the role race plays in our country today. As a mixed woman, Bond says society perceives biracial people in a “this-or-that” way, but she believes that mixed people are proof that an “and” exists. Even though race continues to be a black-and-white issue, Bond continues to adapt to being both at the same time.
Who is Lola Bond?
Lola Bond is a daughter, friend, partner, sister, aunt, performer, worker. A biracial, bisexual that does not like to necessarily go by those terms either. That’s all I can really think of. I’m a human, I’m a Lola.
So you mentioned you’re biracial, but you don’t really like that term. What do you identify as?
I guess I don’t like biracial as a way of putting it in a box or being the only thing to identify a person as because I feel like it’s so much more than that. Biracial is the term that I am most apt to go by. It is the term that I feel best represents my racial blending, if you will. My mom is Scotch-Irish, so she has strawberry-blond hair, blue eyes, freckles, lobster the second she steps out into the sun. My dad was black even though he was light-skinned. I use mixed as well.
Can you describe what it’s like being mixed?
…you’re too white to be black, and too black to be white.
Being mixed is learning to adapt to every situation that you’re in in life because you’re too white to be black, and too black to be white. But just white enough to use that to your advantage should the need arise. Or to your disadvantage. And just black enough, again advantage or disadvantage. It’s trying to find one’s culture one’s identity. And there are a lot of people that are mixed, especially if you look at anyone that was born before the 90s, you picked one or the other or you passed as one or the other.
It was when a race fight broke out in my school and I was friends with predominantly white kids – and they were just like “it’s ok.” And I was like “no you guys don’t understand. You don’t understand it’s not ok.” They were just like “No, we’ll just hang out with my older brother and his friends.” I’m like I can’t do that because that was a betrayal of half of who I was. So you can’t. You just can’t.
Have you ever experienced a challenge for being mixed?
They saw me as black. Down here people don’t, but up there they did.
When I was out in Washington I actually started to come into my blackness, if you will. There’s very few people of color where I was in Washington. There was one gal who was this wonderful, gorgeous and kind woman of color, and she and I happened to meet at a workshop and we had mutual friends. Someone brought up her name and I had forgotten her name ’cause I hadn’t seen her since workshop. My friend said, “Yeah, my friend said that she knows you. You know, the other black woman in this town.” So people referred to us as the other black woman in the town to each other. They saw me as black. Down here people don’t, but up there they did. And then I went to a faculty-and-staff-of-color conference and it was amazing. So I started to really kind of embrace and take on this part of me that I kind of tossed to the side.
And then I came down here and I joined the social justice steering committee, and I’m trying to really stay in that. And I had a very candid conversation with a couple of women of color at work and I was trying to do something and one of them said to me that they appreciated it, but that I wasn’t seen as a black woman with them. I get that and I respect that. I can see where they’re coming from because of me passing and how I behave and everything like that, and I can’t say if I agree with it or not because it’s totally subjective. But it did hurt a little bit and so that’s kind of where I see the feeling of being lonely. Not being able to experience that part of my culture, to get that part of my culture growing up, because I grew up with my white mom, my white grandparents and my white stepfather.
How do you reconcile being both white and black, and neither at the same time?
It is a constant state for someone that’s mixed and as far as reconciliation with that, I don’t know, and if you figure it out, tell me. I think how we reconcile that is just accepting that at least for right now we’re in a country and a culture that is so fixated on the individual race and not the mixture.
We’re kind of the unspoken.
I think that the best way to reconcile is that there isn’t right now and also by using our powers for good. I can go into a room and speak to my experiences and speak to being a woman of color who has the privilege — and I know that I am very privileged — I can go in and speak to it and be able to be heard and even be allowed into a room that perhaps another woman of color who has a darker skin tone is not able to. Being able to also be an advocate and a voice of mixed people. We’re kind of the unspoken.
What advice do you have for the next generation of mixed kids?
Much like it is not my job to decide what that coworker thinks of me, it is not our job to decide how society perceives us. And they’re going to perceive us however they want to. Be true, know who you are. And it’s OK if one day you’re one, the next day you’re the other, the next day you’re both or neither. Because in this culture that is so fixated on this or that, keep the “and” in the equation. We have the power to do that. We are the living embodiment of that. The joining of things doesn’t make it go away; it can create something new and beautiful.
Find more Florida Voices in our weekly podcast, The Point. Do you know someone whose story is worth telling? Email email@example.com.