We all go through stages where we question ourselves, our looks and our identities as we mature into adulthood. We try to find social groups where we’re most comfortable, trying to find friends who we can mostly commonly relate. As a child, our motives are more innocent in nature, only caring about who we’ll be able to play with after school when we get home unless our parents have influenced us otherwise. As we get older, our goals can be more selfish, looking for who can provide something for us and how much they’re willing to give. Regardless, we all have some sort of social need to find those with a commonality, possibly, to find further love within ourselves.
During my youth, I could have been the poster child of the “American Melting Pot” – a little girl with black ringlets curling around her fair dimpled face, light brown eyes reflecting the dry Earth, and holding a Kentucky southern twang to capture everyone’s charm. Whether or not my parents pushed it into my mind, I knew that I was “black” as a smiling five-year old questioning why there were not enough “blacks” on TV or coloring all of the people in coloring books some shade of brown that resided in my Crayola box. I would so innocently play with my Teresa and Courtney Barbie-dolls, building on my massive imaginative doll world where everything was serene and perfect. It wasn’t until later that I realized that Teresa and Courtney did not represent me, but instead the Latina population and that the “black” doll, Christie, looked nothing like me or even my mother. It also was not until later that I understood what kids meant while I was in kindergarten when they would call me “dirty” and how my “hands weren’t clean”. Apparently, they understood how much more “black” I was than I did myself.
Naturally, as I got older, I accepted my “fate”. I went through all-“white”elementary classrooms being the single “black” kid questioned during Black History Month of what my parents and grandparents possibly had to go through during the 1950s and ’60s. Funny enough, I could always feel my face transform into beet red during my historical racism interrogations. On the other hand, there were the “why is your hair so curly?” and the “why are you so light?” interrogations from friends while in middle and high school, not willing to understand if a simple reply of “I’m mixed” was not the reason. Otherwise, how can a person like me look the way I look? I was courteous and my mother always tried to make sure that I was somewhat presentable before leaving the house each morning. I was picked on because I could always wear a ponytail or for the reason that I wasn’t dressing “hip-hop” enough. A neighborhood “friend” of mine made it a point to remind me nearly everyday as we grew into our teens how much of a “white girl” or “cracker” or “honky” I was until one day I lashed out, and, at that time, it was the best way that I knew how.
Nonetheless, I traveled to adulthood, into my college years where I culturally felt more “black” than the rest of my ethnic peers around me. Having had attended such a prestigious university in the state of Virginia, I felt as if I was lost in a society of people who looked like me: fair with ambiguous features, long raven hair bounced on the girls’ shoulders, but many of whom I felt as if we shared no similarities. How on Earth could these people exist and not know the issues that prevailed in our ethnic communities? How could these people major in African American studies but not realize the societal limitations placed on “blacks” not as privileged as themselves? It truly baffled me and luckily I found myself in a comfort zone of “Christies” who I could finally find some form of solace. Still, I could not understand how a race of people could go so far for equality and progression to only forget or deny where they came from.
As a society, are we not okay with the future of melting potting; are our mentalities really as archaic? Within an American culture, why can we not find comfort within ourselves – or as a nation, do we not have the confidence to do so? For so long, I struggled to find a group of people who I felt as if I could relate to without feeling like an outcast on either side. Being made fun of because I hung out with “whites” and talked “white” and alternatively looked down upon because of my choice of movies or questioned why I wrap my hair at night, I was always torn between two paths. I refuse to settle for less than my rich cultural background and heritage. My future relies on my present soapbox, and I openly accept my role as America’s Poster Child.
2 Replies to “Comfort Zone”
You aren’t alone. Even though many don’t question my ethnicity as much as they may yours, I experienced a lot of the same discrimination from blacks and whites because of who I grew up around. And yes America is not ready for a melting pit because who would they be able to pick on next?
I think America is as ready as we make it. Nothing is concrete, for the only definite, is change itself. With that understanding, it is on us to change our person, influence and outlook on the world to what we want it to be. My grandma never thought she’d see a black president, and while we have surely not crossed the finish line, there were leaders in her time that believed in change. Believed in impact. Can we not aspire to walk in their footsteps?