"But then there’s this whole other piece, which is that I’ve always been attracted to women. And he knew that before we joined the community. I had told him that a long time ago." [an interview]Read Now
MW: How old are you?
Anonymous: 38. Well no, 37. I’ll be 38 in October. Let me stop making myself older.
MW: What was it like for you growing up?
Anonymous: Ugh, growing up was hard. So, I’m biracial. My mother is black – African-American – and my dad is white. They ran away and went to Florida. The story goes that they got a Winnebago and went to Florida, and they were hippies, doing something totally “not cool” in the seventies. And my father’s mother who is white, totally disowned him because he was with a black girl. So they gave birth me in Florida, and I’m pretty sure they got married. That’s what they told me. But within a year they dissolved the marriage and moved back home.
So, my mother’s bipolar. And my father is an alcoholic. So they both kind of went their ways and kept being wild and eventually my mother had an episode where she took too much LSD, and the police came and got me from her, and took me from her custody.
MW: How old were you?
Anonymous: I was probably less than two years old at the time.
MW: How old were your parents when they had you?
Anonymous: My mother was 21, and my father was a good deal older. He was probably 31 or 32.
MW: What happened after the police came and got you?
Anonymous: There are some conflicting stories about how it all went down. My maternal grandmother tells me that wasn’t the first time my mother had been brought up on neglect charges with me. She says they had taken me before and brought me to my grandmother. But my mother denies that, so I don’t know. The final time, I don’t know where they took me but they contacted my dad’s mom, my white grandma who disowned her son, and apparently asked her if she’d be willing to take me in, because my mother was unfit. I don’t know what my dad was doing, but my grandma was the stable parent.
So she saw me and because I looked white enough, because I had blonde hair and my eyes were light, she agreed to take me because I appeared white. So it was just bad. She was trying to raise me as white, my mother sued for visitations after she got out of the mental institution they put her in. So I would see her like twice a month. It was some weird schedule, like every other weekend or every other Sunday or something like that. So there was very little time that I spent with her but it was very influential. I loved her. I was a kid, I didn’t know bipolar was. She was just fun and spontaneous and crazy and all over the place. And that was my whole introduction to black culture. Any time I spent with her was just black people, fun, partying, loud, dancing, you know? (Laughs) And then I would go back to my white grandma and it was total opposite life. Like living in Victorian England. Formal dinners, everything is clean and pristine. Total opposite.
I was the only child there so it was really quiet and I had to entertain myself all the time. And my grandmother was none too happy about me being there, so it was a culture clash every weekend. I had to keep code switching – which was great because I learned how to code switch. They never really reconciled what I was to be identified as. So when I was with my grandma I was white, and when I was with my mama, I had to be black.
MW: Which one did you feel like you were? Was it okay for you to act white around your mom?
Anonymous: Which one do I feel like I am now, is the question. (laughs) I don’t feel either. And I never did. It’s kind of like both of them are a part of me. My mother was definitely more understanding about it. She would say, I know you have to behave that way around your grandma, but when you here honey, you black! If you got one drop, you black! I was like, what? She was like, you not gon’ be like this all the time. You still need to know you black. She’ll still text me every once in a while, and she’ll be like, you remember you black? (laughs)
MW: People say, you don’t have to do nothing but stay black and die. But you do have to stay black! (laughs)
Anonymous: The bad part was there was nobody else in my town at that time who identified as mixed. There may have been mixed people but they didn’t say that they were mixed. They had chosen a side and they were just gonna be black or they were just gonna be white, and I didn’t know. Looking back, I’m sure there were other people there, but I never came in contact with them to the point that I shared the experience.
So in school, the whole thing kept carrying over. It was very segregated, growing up in the 80s. They had just legally desegregated the city where I grew up, so the schools were still segregated by neighborhoods. Not necessarily because there were black schools and white schools, but there were predominately white schools where there were pockets of black kids.
The white kids always knew I wasn’t quite like them. My grandma never really knew what to do with my hair. And it’s not even that bad but it’s curly and not like hers, so she tried to pin it but it never looked quite like her hair. I don’t know what else what would have tipped them off ‘cause I’m pretty light. But, I don’t know… they always knew I wasn’t one of them.
One particular white girlfriend just cast me out and told me, you can’t play with us. And this was in like, maybe first or second grade. I distinctly remember, every day we had recess at a certain time. And we would meet on the playground at the same time every day. And I just remember this one day, they were not there. And I was running around the whole playground looking for them, and somehow I figured out, oh, they don’t want to play with me today. There was this group of black girls in my neighborhood – because even though my grandmother was white, she lived in the city, and there was actually a lot of black people around – so I was riding the bus with all these black girls, and then get to school and try to hang with the white girls. I distinctly remember, the day I got dissed, my homegirls from my hood came up to me and they were like, girl, why you hanging out with those girls? They were like, you need to be hanging out with us. And I was like, oh. From that point forward, all my friends have been predominately black. I went that way. (laughs) That stuff played all the way out through high school. You know, are you going to be black or white? It was stupid.
MW: So how did you reconcile it as you became an adult?
Anonymous: It was a process. It probably still isn’t really done. I’ve just been learning and then what really helped was like, Mariah Carey came out on the scene, and I found out that Cree Summer from A Different World, was mixed. Everybody was like, oh you look just like Freddie! Now you’re Freddie, because they have someone to associate me with. And you know, as a minority, having someone in the media to identify with is like, huge. So it’s like, there are other people like you. So I see Mariah rock her curls and I see her rock her straight hair, and I’m seeing, this is what we do. We play both sides if we want to. We switch. So you just learn kind of how to swing it to your advantage. Ooh… I still have color issues.
MW: How do you swing it to your advantage?
Anonymous: Um, because… I think…. It’s hard because I don’t know how to compare it. In talking to other up and coming black people, you know how to code switch, and you know how to behave, and you know how to get by. You know how to play the game. Predominately white people are running shit, and you need to move up. Like at my job, the white people are in charge and I wanted to move up. So, I know how to exist in their culture, because I have. Because I was raised in it. So it’s not just me being a black person trying to suck up or trying to relate. No, I have white experiences that I can share with you.
For example, my white parents own a beach house. And only wealthy white people own beach houses and second homes in that area. There are no black people there with second homes at the beach in that area. So when I’m talking to white counterparts I can say, oh yeah, we used to spend our summers at the beach. To them that’s like, oh you’re one of us. Because you couldn’t possibly be black and you spent your summers at your parent’s second home at the beach. And my dad owns a boat, and I went fishing and crabbing, and I don’t know, we went camping. It’s shit that only they know. And only if you’ve lived in their world would you have references about that.
MW: Since you have a foot in both worlds… I know black people can be racist. We can be really racist. Are white people racist, like we can be? Because you know how we can be…(laughs)
Anonymous: (Laughs) Some of them are. But I don’t know how much they let out in front of me, because I don’t know how much they know. And you know sometimes, I don’t reveal it, but maybe they know, you know? If they know I have a black parent, then I don’t know how guarded they’re being around me. I don’t know if they’re scared to cross a line because they’re scared of repercussions. Stuff comes out subtly. And actually it was more so growing up. I would hear nappy or nigger or stuff like that. White people would say stuff like that around me.
And then when I grew up and moved away, things were a lot different. We’re talking from the 80s, 90s and into the 2000s. And then you know, next thing you know, there’s a black president. So it kind of shifted. But yeah, some of them are kind of like… I would just have to say they don’t know. They just really don’t know. They’ve been sheltered. Like for example, I have a half-sister and a half-brother on my mother’s side, and they’re completely black, African American. So my sister joined the Peace Corps. They all had to meet in DC before they went off to their countries or whatever. So she went to the official orientation and found she was the only black girl going to Peace Corps. And she encountered some girl who was from the Midwest. I want to say like North Dakota or something like that, I don’t know, who literally had never ever seen a black person in her life. And she was fascinated but in an ignorant way, like, can I touch your hair? I didn’t know you guys really existed, I’ve seen you on TV. My sister called me crying. She was like, I don’t think I can do this because they’re about to send me to El Salvador and I’m the only black girl. She was like, this is crazy!
So, it’s that kind of ignorance. They say shit because they don’t know they’re being ignorant. Even If I try to step to them, it’s over their head because they haven’t encountered that. I haven’t really encountered someone who was just like, I hate black people. That kind of stuff is just foolish and I wouldn’t even entertain it.
MW: So you’re 37? If you could go back and tell yourself something at 25, what would you tell her?
Anonymous: At 25… 12 years ago… okay so I had just had my 2nd daughter. I was in the Hebrew community. (laughs) I would have told her to get out now! I would have told her, don’t spend another five years in the community, leave now! (laughs)
MW: So this is the Hebrew Israelite community?
MW: Can you explain it to me?
Anonymous: Well all of my boyfriends have been black. My first husband, we met in high school. We had our first kid when I was 19 and he was 18, and we got married that year, right after we had the kid. No wait, I was 20 and he was 19. So we got married that year and we were literally two kids playing house. Way too immature. We broke up when my son was one and then got back together, but it was still like, bad. And the whole time, we both kind of felt like – he didn’t have a father – and we both felt like he needed a male role model or support. He felt it too, but in a different way. He didn’t just come out and say, I need a man in my life (laughs). But he would say things like, I wish I had a dad or whatever. So this community kind of showed up. I guess we attracted it to ourselves. There was a guy who kind of hipped us to it but he hadn’t moved to the cities where these communities existed at the time. He just had the information. I met him at work and he started pitching me all this.
They’re black Hebrews. The follow the Old Testament. They’re basically orthodox Jews but they’re black, so they follow Orthodox Judaism, like to the T. But they’ve kind of redefined it in their own way. They don’t have a synagogue like white people. And this is a whole other story – the community actually started in Chicago. The leader was Ben Ami, and this is like, in the 60s. He got a group of people together and they decided they were going to re-identify with their roots. They didn’t feel they wanted to be Islamic or Black Panthers. They felt they were connected to their Hebraic lineage. They felt like they were one of the lost tribes of Israel. So he decided that they needed to go back to Israel – and this is right around the time that Israel actually became its own country. The Israelis made a law called the Law of Return, and it said that anyone who comes back to Israel and claims that they’re Hebrew will get status and land in the country. So Ben Ami was like, oh, this must mean us too. He was like, we’re Hebrew too, we can go back right? (laughs) So he convinces this group of people in Chicago. First they’re gonna go back to Liberia and learn how to live off the land. So they literally left Chicago with like, tents, and went to Liberia and lived in the jungle for I don’t know how long. Some of them died of malaria or some shit. And they finally decided, okay, we’re gonna go to Israel. In Israel, the government was like, we didn’t mean ya’ll could come back. (laughs)
MW: Because we’ve never acknowledged that ya’ll were ever here in the first place…
Anonymous: Right. They said ya’ll not Hebrews. Then they said in order to be Hebrew, you have to convert to our system. You have to become Jews through our system. And Ben Ami was like, no, we’re not gonna do that. We’re already Hebrews and we don’t need you to validate us. So it was like a long thing they went through and they ended up just invading the land and basically squatting until the government finally gave them a place to be. They still have a presence there. They still have their own little village that they live in. The government did finally recognize them and give them some sort of residency status but they’re not full Jews. Crazy.
So that’s their story. Me and my ex-husband said, oh wow, this sounds like what we’ve been looking for. We both had been saying we wanted to study religion and spirituality. It just kind of fit with the questions we had at the time about life and community and that kind of stuff. So we decided to move to be with this community. And it was interesting. In one way, it did provide the answers we’d been looking for, but then of course, with any community, it has its issues. So as the issues started unfolding… I remember a year after we got there, my husband decides he wants to confess and come clean. Actually it was Yom Kippur which is a Jewish holy day where you make atonement for past wrong doings. You come clean and apologize to somebody or whatever.
He decides he wants to tell me he had an affair on me, before we got there. And I remember at that moment, I was like, this might be a good moment for me to make a break. You had an affair, maybe I don’t want to go forward with this relationship. But the thing about the community is that they’re polygamous, so the men were allowed to have more than one wife, but the women were not. So there were already women that liked him as soon as we got there and he was kind of like, trying to figure out how he was going to date these women. We were trying to figure that out for us, like how are we gonna handle this? So I remember when he told me he cheated, I was like, maybe I should just back out of this. But there were counselors and leaders within the community that took us in like, no, don’t break up your relationship. Don’t break up your family. We can work through this. So they convinced me to stay. But yeah, had I been able to go back I probably would have told myself to leave.
But then again, you think about it like, I had to learn whatever I had to learn so…I would have gone through similar drama somewhere else.
MW: What was it that you had to learn?
Anonymous: Oh my gosh. A lot of stuff. How to exist in a sisterhood. Because within the community there was a sisterhood and a brotherhood. You had sisterhood meetings. If somebody had a baby, we were expected to show up at their house and cook for them. Another big thing was, when women get on their periods, you’re not allowed to cook for your family because you’re considered to be unclean. So for those seven days, you don’t cook and another sister has to come to your house and cook for your family. It’s one of the things they try to sell you as the advantage of having a sister wife but we’re all kind of like, uh duh, you have a sister wife, you’re gonna be getting on your period at the same time.
MW: Exactly! That’s what I was thinking…
Anonymous: Right, that’s not a selling point! They’ll be like Sister So and So is inactive so she needs somebody to come cook. And a lot of the houses were communal so in a house, you might have more than one family living there. You might have a family with kids, and then some single brothers or sisters, or whatever. Or you might have two families. But yeah, if the woman got inactive and couldn’t cook, another woman had to show up and do it. Or, some of the men were nice enough to cook but it wasn’t on them. It wasn’t supposed to be their responsibility to do it. And then if a woman had a baby, they’re unclean 40 days after if they have a boy and 80 days after if they have a girl, so again, the sisters are supposed to step up and help take care of the baby, the family, and the other kids.
So it was a lot of cooking, oh my God. I like hate cooking now because of it. I got pregnant with my daughter and then I nursed her for a good 18 months and I didn’t get my cycle the whole time. So I was on call, like, oh yeah, she’s not on her period, she can do it. (laughs) And I got my period twice after I stopped nursing and then I got pregnant again. So it was another nine months of me being available, and then another year of nursing, until I was just kind of like, (laughs) This is some bullshit.
But you learn how to do it. I learned how to do some stuff that I really hated and there is a blessing in serving your sisters when they’re not able and being around them during those vulnerable times. I learned all that good stuff. I learned how to share my man!
MW: What was that like?
Anonymous: Part of it was because I wasn’t really in love with him. So, you know, we’d already been through marriage and breaking up, and infidelity. I felt like I was with him out of my resolve to keep the family together. I was like, you know, I only want to get married once and I want it to be forever. So I was just kind of like, you know, I’m going to do this. With conviction. I was in it for that reason. But I didn’t have that, oh I’m so in love with him, I want him around me all the time. I didn’t have that feeling so, I was kind of like yeah, go be with somebody else and let them fulfill your desires. So it’s off of me, you know?
MW: I know couples who are monogamous might kind of let themselves go because they don’t have to attract anyone… but dealing with a man who deals with other women, did that make him sexier? Did he step his game up?
Anonymous: (laughs) No. He’s like that anyway. He’s a Virgo and he is very sharp. If anyone would let themselves go, it was not him. I didn’t either because he didn’t let me, I think. He wasn’t having that. You had to be sharp. So no, there was no change. He was already sharp and he was already attracting women even before. But he had done so much stuff at that time to kind of shut me down. We had been through a lot of stuff before we even joined the community. He was very verbally abrasive, kind of borderline abusive, I’m not sure. I had shut down a long time ago and disconnected and there was this wall there. I would do stuff for him but I never really fully connected. So it didn’t make him more attractive, but it made it less of a burden for me, to deal with him. And he resented that greatly. He wanted me to want him. But I never could again, after some of the stuff he did.
But then there’s this whole other piece, which is that I’ve always been attracted to women. And he knew that before we joined the community. I had told him that a long time ago. He was actually always really open to it. He was like, you know, if that’s something you want to do then I want that for you.
Anonymous: I know right. It’s funny because he never approached it like, let’s have a threesome. It was always, I want you to have that. (laughs) So there was the whole element about the women he was dating, and me being attracted to them or them being attracted to me. (laughs)
Anonymous: So the first girl that openly said hey, I really like your husband and I’m really interested in being a part of your family, there was a protocol for that. They weren’t supposed to have sex, and the woman coming into the family was supposed to pursue the family, and not just the man. They were supposed to get to know the woman and the kids and understand that she’s going to be a part of a unit that was already existing. So you were supposed to spend time with the woman that was pursuing your man.
So this girl, she didn’t like me sexually. And actually we’re still really good friends to this day. But she liked me. She’d always say, I wish you were the husband and that your husband was the wife, because I would have liked to marry you. She was like, I felt really close to you and I felt like I wanted to be your best friend and I loved hanging out with you, but eventually I stopped liking him, but I really wanted to be close to you. Actually I think she might be secretly bi but she’s always denying it, like (whispers) no, no, no. But that’s because her brother is gay and he’s shameful.
But then there was this other one girl, and she was pursuing him, but then she started actively pursuing me. It was really interesting. So that whole thing actually dragged out about three years. She was pursuing him, and she kind of like, subtly started spending more time with me. I was pregnant with my third child and I had morning sickness all the time. She started giving me massages, she started making me dinner. She got really… and this was before it got physical… but she basically dated me. She’d give me flowers and she would write me letters.
It got to the point that—my husband sometimes had to do overnight security at one of the businesses owned by the community — and this girl would say, I’m gonna come over and sleep at your house, ‘cause your husband’s gone, right? So I’m pregnant, and it just became like a girl night. She’d come over and we’d hang out and talk and watch movies or whatever. But then she started lighting candles. And then one night I remember she stripped down to her underwear before she got in the bed and I was like, (laughs) uh, do you know that I like girls? I don’t know if I’d ever told her outright or if it was something she just sensed, but I was like, what are you trying to do? But meanwhile I’m pregnant and my belly’s growing and I’m not feeling attractive. So I’m like, I don’t want this to happen right now. But it was kind of intense.
There was a lot of other stuff surrounding it as well because like I said, she and my husband weren’t supposed to be having sex. This girl told me that she was a virgin but apparently she wasn’t and he knew she wasn’t, and at some point they started having sex but never told me. So this whole time I’m thinking she’s never had sex with anybody, and I’m not trying to go there with her and I’m her first sexual experience period. So it was weird. And this was going on my whole pregnancy with my third child.
So she eventually left and went to Israel because her family was living there. I had the baby, and they decided they were going to confess to me they had been having sex. So she’s in Israel and he’s here, and she gets on the phone and they say, we have something to tell you, we’ve been having sex. And they were like, we’re really sorry, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but we really want to get married and we want to make the family work so let’s get past this. So I’m like, okay, because by this time I’m really into this girl too. And she’s into both of us, not just me. So I was like, I think I can make this work.
So she gets to Israel and she starts writing me these letters, like really long love letters, and she finally comes out and says she wants to be with me intimately. And I was like, oh wow. But now you’re in Israel and I’m here…
MW: And wasn’t she still engaged to your husband?
Anonymous: Well, kind of but not really. Because we didn’t really do engagements like that. So it was kind of like, yeah that was still on the table. And he knew about me and her. He knew about the whole thing. He was like, that’s fine. If we’re all married, then hey, whatever, anything goes. We’re married. The whole thing was that he was supposed to be sending me to Israel. Because when you’re in the community, your whole focus is moving out of America and becoming fully Israeli Hebrew and revoking your American status. With being a Hebrew Israelite, that’s the ultimate. You move to Israel and you live there. This is deep right? So the whole thing is he’s supposed to be sending me there first and he’ll come later. That’s what the men do – they send the family there and the woman and the kids establish a home and he works in America and supports them and sends up enough money to build their house up and finally it gets to the point where he can move over.
So she’s there, and he’s supposed to be sending me there, and we’re supposed to be getting things ready so he can come. So I do eventually go, and we did eventually become intimate while she and I were there, and he was here.
Anonymous: So we’re there having our little relationship and he’s here and I don’t know…it got crazy is all I can say.
MW: Did he ever go there, to Israel?
Anonymous: He did, he visited for two or three weeks and then he went back. And I stayed six months, because the law is you can’t stay more than six months unless you’re actually a citizen. So, I don’t know. Wow. (Laughs)
MW: So how did ya’ll eventually break up?
Anonymous: They broke up actually. I’m like, how long is this story gonna get?
MW: (Laughs) Girl our stories be long…
Anonymous:I had always been like the bread winner, and kind of like wore the pants in the family. Mostly just because I knew more how to run a household, how to pay the bills, how to keep the lights on, stuff like that. And he just never really kept a job and he always wanted to work for himself, and he had stolen money from people before. I don’t know, I guess she just eventually caught on to his little game and caught on to the fact that our family was out of balance in that way. She was kind of like, you know, this is not for me.
And they fought a lot about things I didn’t want to get into. I don’t know what they were fighting about but they would fight a lot. These big, all out, hollering, screaming, blows. And I would just kind of stay out of it like, I don’t really want to know what they’re fighting about. But they had their issues as well. So that’s when she just decided she didn’t want to be part of the family. And I was like, well what does that mean for us? Because honestly at that point I was kind of like, I’ll leave him and we can be together. And she was like, no…that’s not really what I want. She said, I still want to get married and have a traditional family and have kids and that kind of thing. She was like, I don’t really want to live an alternative lifestyle. Because ultimately it would require her leaving the community if she did that. She was raised in the community. Her parents were inside and her sister was inside. So for her to do that with me would be totally leaving everything she knew.
I was devastated for a while. So then I’m left with him. He was like, we’re still married!
MW: How old were you?
Anonymous: This was like between 26 to 29.This was that age where I was like, had I known I would have said, get out now! So it was just me and him and we’re just kind of looking at each other like what in the hell? We both kind of like, tried to get over her because we were both really in love with her. Then we had to ask, do we still love each other? I mean, we didn’t really before her anyway. (laughs) What do we have now? Like, what just happened? It was kind of deep. So yeah, shortly after that I left him. Like a year later.
MW: Shit. That was an amazing story. Wow!
Anonymous: It’s pretty unbelievable, it really is. I need to write it down.
MW: For real!
Anonymous: I have witnesses, I do.
MW: Well I’m gonna type it out. It’s gonna be on the blog. You’re gonna read it and be like, oh my God.
Anonymous: Yeah, I’ve told it before and people are always like, what? Did that really happen? But I couldn’t make this shit up, man.
MW: Thank you so much for sharing.
Anonymous: You’re welcome.