Grace Byers is opening up about her childhood struggles. The Harlem actress stopped by Tamron Hall where she got candid about her experience as a biracial, multicultural child who had deaf parents. Grace’s mom is an Afro-Caribbean woman from the Cayman Islands and her father is a white man from Pennsylvania. Being in a deaf household was normal for her, but she quickly learned that what was normal for her wasn’t normal for other kids.
“I think the biggest shock for me was to see other children have parents who was hearing,” she said.
“When I would go to school and other parents would come about, my mom would come—I grew up in a deaf household, that’s what I knew and so when my mom would speak or when she would sign, that would be something strange for the kids to be able to comprehend.”
She added, “As a kid, I was accosted a lot for how my mom sounded, for how she communicated and I just didn’t have those answers as a child.”
As if trying to navigate her life as a child that is a part of the deaf culture wasn’t hard enough, Grace, who wrote the children’s books I am Enough and I Believe I Can, also dealt with the constant questions regarding her race and culture.
“When coming to America [from the Cayman Islands], I had to learn how to kinda code-switch a little bit. So even coming here, a lot of people couldn’t place me because I was racially ambiguous and they wanted to label me very quickly and say, ‘what are you?’”
“That was the number one question I got a lot. It was really hard for me because I’m like, my dad’s white, my mom’s Black, I’m American, but I’m also Caymanian. I’m hearing, but I’m also a part of a deaf culture and so there were all these things that I just couldn’t answer the questions, pun intended, in a black and white way.”
She continued, “So I realized that when people couldn’t understand all those mixes and [I couldn't] give them a definitive answer, that’s when I understood that the labeling is really important for a lot of people, not just in America but worldwide and I think that has a lot to do with how people want to perceive you and understand.”
Through all of the strife she encountered in her childhood as well as her adulthood as a struggling actress, she realized that it only molded her into the person she is today.
“I think as a kid, one of the things that you don’t want to be the most is different. And I think when you grow up you realize ‘oh my gosh I’m really like no other person’ and that is actually your superpower and not a liability,” she said.
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