Black, White, Other Flashback: Nya Patrinos

Here’s an excerpt from Nya Patrinos’s original 1992 interview in Black, White, Other: Biracial Americans Talk About Race and Identity (now available in a 20th anniversary expanded ebook edition):

“I really never found a community of people in college. I lived in a group house off-campus for a while, with eight people. I guess I knew all the fringe elements, the people who were writing, the painters, the acting people, the people in the philosophy department—all the people sort of falling off the edge of the mainstream. But I still don’t know what frat house was which, which you’re supposed to know at Penn [University of Pennsylvania]. I failed. I failed.

The African-American community at Penn is pretty militant, and they don’t want you to hang out with white people. There was a W.E.B. Du Bois House where you lived if you were a ‘progressive’ African-American. I could never find out when black student union meetings there were because I lived in High Rise North and they didn’t want to put signs there because they were afraid that white people were going to come. I know because I asked the guy who was the president of the African-American student union, and he said, ‘We can’t get anything done with those people crashing the meeting. You know how those people are.’

I feel like I can never be a very militant African-American person who hates white people because I’d hate fifty percent of myself. So I couldn’t really participate in that world at Penn because I’m not going to hate white people; it’s just not what’s going to happen. I can’t accept that, being mixed.

I think the black students just wrote me off. I’m sure people knew who I was, because African-American men on the campus kind of know who the African-American women are. I’m not overweight, I’m okay-looking, so sometimes I would walk home from the library and some guy would come and talk to me and say, ‘Are you a graduate student?’ And maybe I’m making this up, but I think they saw me a lot of times with white people and I got blacklisted. Maybe it wasn’t as intentional as that, but nobody talked to me besides the one guy I asked about the meetings.”

Nya’s 20-year update will be posted in the next week or two. Meanwhile, you can read the rest of her original oral history in the BWO ebook.