Race is something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I grew up in a predominantly white elementary and middle school (known as primary school for some of you). Throughout these years, my dusty skin and curly hair colored me different than my peers. This resulted in a lot of internalized racism through my tween and some of my teen years. A lot of my culture and even some of my family was rejected by myself. I simply wanted to be a 100% white girl.
As time went on, I began to embrace my blackness more. I raised my fist and was unashamed of my curly hair. I still struggled with feeling as though I had a place among society. At some point in my life, I feel utterly secure in my identity — I am black, white, Hispanic, mulitracial. I am all of the above! Yet moments inevitably follow where I don’t feel secure. So many of these racial groups have an all-or-nothing mindset (and this is not saying this is an entirely group-thinking opinion). I still fought with the voice in the back of my mind saying that I was downplaying one of my races if I said “I’m a black woman,” or “I’m a white woman,” and it is a side effect of that all-or-nothing mindset.
Media representation of that has far too big of an impact on this, I’m afraid. During my tween and some teen years, it’s where I turned to feel like I belonged. And the media has wronged me in many ways, and the media will wrong everyone. It is how I handle it that matters.
I found myself watching white films or shows or reading white books and whatever it may be and thinking “I’m white, too, but none of them look like me.” And that is a very complex mindset — because race and ethnicity are very complex.
I finally gathered the courage to get my ancestry DNA done! I was on my high horse for quite some time, protesting the government and not wanting to give them my information. But my curiosity and innate love for genealogy and geography became all too much!
Again, I felt sixteen — feeling as though I betrayed one race by digging into another.
I concluded by reminding myself that race is a social construct. I only call myself black, white, biracial, because I want to. But do I want to? It has dictated how I view myself for such a time. Why not get rid of it? So I did.
I am not black. I am not white. I am not biracial. I am me.
I proudly have Native American, African, and European (even some Asian!) ancestry. Shedding race has been the most freeing action I have done. I no longer fit into a box, or multiple boxes, and I no longer make my own box. None of us has a box! Doing this has helped me feel like I belong.
This does not mean I disregard what I have gone through because of my African heritage. I have been called slurs. I have experienced discrimination, albeit my being very very pale. I have the experiences of a young African-American woman, but when I present myself to the world, I am a young woman composed of so many different countries.
White people have never had to shed race, because it began with Africans. By this, I mean Europeans had created race by determining society as: Europeans… and Negroes/Moors. White people created “black people.” Before then, we were all just people — people of African, European, Asian, et cetera ancestry.
Race was created to keep people of color down. I am done searching for purpose within a system that was created to oppress me. I do not judge the black people who raise their fist and shout their blackness from the rooftops. I applaud them the loudest I can. I simply reserve the right to shed my race. This is what works for me.
And it works extremely well.