I had my big Eat, Pray, Love moment a couple weeks ago.
During class, each person of color shared an experience that he or she had dealt with during their time here at JMU. As I felt the attention of my peers shift to me to hear what stories I had to share, I, myself, was looking for the next person of color to share because I completely forgot that I was a person of color. That sounds ridiculous, I know. (Let me explain.)
I went home feeling heavy. I pride myself on being culturally aware, but was I even aware of myself?
I forget sometimes that I am seen as different from the majority of JMU’s student body. Isn’t that so weird? Although, if you were going around thinking about what your skin color is or what you look like to other people all the time, you would go crazy!
Let’s put it on the table that I am Filipino and white. And no one talks about the weirdness that comes with being bi-racial. I wish I could write a little how-to guide on being bi-racial and it be given as a cute hospital gift when mixed babies are born because no one preps you for the bullshit that occurs in a bi-racial person’s life.
In my case, it was a weird spot to be in when you are “too white” for your Filipino friends, but “too Filipino” for your white friends. It is also a weird spot to be in when your cousins tease you for acting “white” or the Filipino boys think you are not cultured enough, yet their moms try to set up an arranged marriage because they want their grandkids to have your “white features.”
As humans, our brains are like file cabinets, FULL of bullshit including but not limited to: the song lyrics you were forced to learn in your third grade Christmas play in private school, the garage code to your parent’s house, how many shots you can take before throwing up, etc. Each topic has its own file. That goes for people too. We see a person and our brain immediately goes: white guy, brown hair, freckles, blue eyes. We have to categorize people to make ourselves feel comfortable. SO, when bad bitches like myself roll up, having the nerve to be mixed, it confuses people. It makes people uncomfortable when they cannot figure you out. (Powerful, right?)
You cannot figure out your boyfriend and why he is an absolute dick on the weekends and I could not figure out my identity. We all have our battles.
With that, I became confused as to which box I fit in.
I started to feel the pressure of needing to identify with one race or the other. I started to question EVERYTHING ABOUT MYSELF. I had to go through the social stereotypes that have been ingrained in my head of what being “too white” means. Okay, hm-let’s see, I guess I date a white guy. We go to the driving range to hit golf balls in our free time. My favorite food is Italian. I am not good at math. I spent my childhood going to Michigan (the whitest state known to man) every summer to my family’s lake house. Okay. Maybe the people are right. Maybe I am just as white as Kellyanne Conway. (Oof.)
However, during my short time of soul-searching, I realized that this type of cornering and shaming is not right. This socialization that I must pick a race to make others more comfortable is unfair and absurd. I don’t have to pick a race! I don’t have to explain myself! Nor do i need to defend why I am the way I am. I can just be me.
So to the bi-racial folks reading this. You do not have to pick a side. You do not have to act how you think you are supposed to, in order to be accepted. Continue being you. You have the opportunity to embrace not only one, but TWO cultures. How lucky are you!
Featured photo: vermonthumanities.org