Thursday, March 29, 2012

Black with a Black Friend, White with a White.

"Was it false and deceitful to be black with a black friend and white with a white one? And to be yet a third, perhaps "brown," person with friends who were neither black nor white? Did it make me two- or even three-faced?"

This conundrum comes from Mamle Kabu's main character Claudia from her short story "Human Mathematics" which appeared in Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience.

Where is line between who you are and who you make yourself to be?

When I was young, I had a hard time fitting in. By middle school, I had decided enough was enough. I desperately wanted friends and so I changed the person that I was to someone that fit in better. Part of that meant being whiter around my white friends and blacker around my blacker friends.

On the cheerleading team in high school. White with my white friends.

I also gained some Vietnamese friends with whom I was "brown" as Kabu called it. "Brown" was actually more of a shade of grey since I acted neither black or white, and more politically correct.

In high school, I joined the sprint team on track, where I learned how to speak more black-like. While I was still made fun of for how "white" I sounded, my new accent did at least impress my white friends when it slipped out.

I became a commodity, a comic relief.  I was that weird girl who was two people in one. I started to question if this person was really me. Had I played another personality so long that I no longer knew?

While I have no definite answer on the questions in the opening quote, I can say this: Being who you really are means being who you want to be. And being who you want to be can change with time, friends, and places. It's not bad unless it makes you that way, as if you have something that you have to hide.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Neela Vaswani: Stability of One Thing

"In my youth, I longed to have what I mistakenly perceived as the stability of being 'one thing,'" wrote Neela Vaswani in her comments at the end her short story, which appeared in Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience.

One thing. As a mixed kid growing up in a suburban neighborhood, I had wished for it too. I wanted to fit in somewhere, in one area. I wanted to be white like my friends so that I wouldn't be the darkest one, the oddball, in every picture.
At my elementary school before a concert. I never could figure out how to arrange my face on command.
My parents always said my gift was that I could cross the boundary lines, but that gift many times left me straddling two worlds than belonging to either. Should I hang out with the black kids or the white kids? And if I act out of race lines, will they make fun of me for it? (Sometimes yes)

I've grown up now. While I still straddle the lines of race, I've decided to embrace those differences rather than try to hide them or awkwardly smash those pieces of me together. I don't kowtow to racial lines anymore.

I'm in a stage of exploration and exhibition. I'm being me, all of me. And I don't care who sees it.