“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I’d be crunched into other people’s fantasies and eaten alive.”- Audre Lorde
Being two races is a blessing and a curse. Two cultures, two genres of music, two distinctive worlds, so much delightful food – but a lot of confusion. I never felt like I was African-American, the neighborhoods I lived in were primarily white as were the schools I attended. I grew up surrounded by my mothers side of the family and they were all Mexican. They cherished me and taught me how to become a courageous, self-reliant woman and I saw myself in them more than any African-American person I knew.
My mother and I have almond shaped dark brown eyes, our eyebrows frown in confusement when someone gives us attitude. We’re the same height, 5’1, with a small face and chubby fingers. I can’t think straight without a logical plan and an organized approach, I get it from her. So I never saw the race in my mother, I never needed to. It never occured to me that it was odd how my mother and I are evidently two contrasting colors. I was never given reason to believe I was any different from my family until middle school.
There was no confusion as to who my father was when it came time to be picked up from school. That one was obvious, it was the 5’11, dark skinned, bald headed, bearded guy. People would look at me clueless, they would stare at me until they built up the courage to ask the question: “What are you?” as if I was a new breed they had came across. After time when my friends became comfortable enough, they would see my father pick me up after school and I would hear, 'I always forget that your dad is black.' Or: 'Hold on, so which one of your parents is Black and which one is Mexican?'
As I matured people began to force me to choose; I had to divide my identity in half and perform the way my friends thought was acceptable to at that moment. It grew into a draining occurence where I was reaching for certain social cues combined with my two identities at all times and I wasn’t confident in who I was. This was accumulated on with the burden of flourishing as a teenager, going through the insecurities everyone experiences in high school, and being capable of maintaining grades.
I was utterly Black based on the essence of my skin tone, the way my hair curled and the way society saw me without understanding who I truly was past all of that, but I was also Mexican. I found the power within myself when I understood I did not have to meet the standards my peers and those around me frequently set for me.
Seven years of attempting to become what society desired me to be, in the end of my junior year of high school I ultimately knew I was just Ariana. And my ability to move between groups of people is not unique to biracial people, but I understood how it felt like an impassable bubble that you could never leave. Choosing to express myself differently and not falling victim to a traditional stereotype based on my color, I understood I had been fortunate to be born this way. Not because of the false white privilege I received, but because I was capable of moving between both races and use it to my advantage.
The power of being biracial, especially as a teenager, taught me how to admire my mother more. My mother taught me how to be affectionate and chic, but nevertheless to have a strong mind. My father knew about the struggles I’d encounter as a biracial woman, not being brown enough for the brown people, not being white enough for the white people and not being black enough for the black people. I cherished my father more, he gave me knowledge about my own race that I needed.
Most importantly, being a biracial woman taught me how to have a better balance in my life. I pull things from two races to learn how to live my life, believing in the power of being biracial has given me a better outlook in our society’s growing racial suffering. The community that I’m a part of grants me the opportunity to have many interactions with people that I otherwise wouldn't have had without my genes coming from two different places in the world.I’ve learned differences make you stand out. I have two deeply diverse set of genes within me and I feel fortunate to say so. It's okay that I look rather unique, or my hair is a frizzy and bold. Yes, I understand that everyday must be crazy hair day for me.
My parents and I don’t look exactly alike but that’s alright. You can be tall, blue-eyed, Korean, or all of them and one thing that I am able to take away through my experiences is wherever your genes come from in the world, being you is the most fantastic thing you can be.
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