This blog was inspired by the pictures in this article:
Microaggression as defined in the article above as a term that refers to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”
I’ve never been allowed to be both. I have never been allowed to be both Asian American and Black, but that’s what I am. I ‘ve only been acknowledge as both by family, and that’s only because I’m different from the rest of them. I use to think different meant unquie, and unique was good like God was good (Christian raised, Maternal family 2nd generation converted by the American Baptist Association in Burma). I felt proud and special at a time in my life of my racial and cultural background. However, the older I got the more I felt forced to choose how to label myself because both wasn’t an option.
I was a Black dancer. I was the token Black friend. I was a good student because I was Asian. I was obedient and organized because I was Asian. I was no longer unique, nor the same as my peers, but a racial label and that most characteristics used to describe me went back to race. When I was little race didn’t matter to me, I thought interracial relations were normal, I mean hell I was the product of one. Looking back though I had no prejudices towards Black people even though they did against me for being different. Now I understand their prejudices may have been because of the one drop rule. (Or at least that’s the most logical and rational reason I can come up with for right now to justify my experience.)
Black people always wanted me to acknowledge myself as Black and Black alone. I did, do, and always refused to acknowledge myself as only Black, because I’m not. If anything I am Asian first and foremost, Karen first and foremost. I learned the Karen way at home, I learned the Black history at school, and America (my peers, in school, in dance, in the store, in passing) told me I was Black, only my family told me I was both. However, being young and full of teenage angst I didn’t decided I was both, I decided to prove I wasn’t “Black”, at least not enough to soley be considered Black. I went on defensive mode asserting and declaring my Asian identity and silently yet overtly refusing me Blackness. I’m not ashamed of my Blackness, I never have been. My biggest issue with being Black was my hair and boys (my hair because my mom’s Asian and my dad’s a man and I never properly learned how to talk care of it till I was grown and boys, my sophmore year, two of my friends said they wouldn’t date or marry a black girl one of them being mixed, identifing as Black and the other being White, with Black family however, they did say mixes we’re okay and that troubled me).
In college I learned that I could be both to the world outside of my head. I AM Black and Karen American, (and even sixteeth Cherokee) multiracial and proud. Asian American Studies may be about Asians in America, but it includes the biracials and multiracials. I only moved an hour away from home (Bakersfield, CA) but the valley made me realize how much of a pretend colorblind, hick town, I really came from was never going to see me the way I saw myself because they were old and ignorant and they taught their children to be the same. For that reason I’m glad I left home.
I am Asian and Black. I am Asian in culture because I am second generation and heavily influenced by the lives of my maternal immigrant family. I am Black because of my features and the terminology I use in comparison to the dominant White words educated middle and upper class African Americans use (such as skillet instead of frying pan for example). I am Black because my family lived through civil rights and segreation and their history is a legacy to me. I am Asian becuase I eat Karen food that smells weird, and I use my hand not untensils. I AM Asian AND Black a minority either way. A person either way. Both my sets of ancestry have faced persecution over the color of their skin. Why must I choose to be anyone other than myself?
A poem from What Are You? by Peral Fuyo Gaskins and voices of mixed-race young people:
‘What are you anyway?’
Black? White? Mixed? Latina? Native American?
Mulatto? Carribean? Puerto Rican? Gringa?
Middle Eastern? Central American? Venezuelan?
Italian? Greek? Biracial? Cape Verdean? Spanish?
Cuban? Irish? Trigueña? Eastern European? African?
Mestizo? Brazilian? . . .
I am all of the above because you think I am
(depending on the clothes I’m wearing, the company
I’m keeping, the language I’m speaking, the food
I’m eating, the style of my hair, the shade of my
skin, the country I’m in), and I’m none of the above.
What am I?
I’m a question. I’m an answer.
I’m a resister of racial classfications,
A defier of ethnic designations,
A list of possible labels,
And a navigator of niches that don’t quite fit.
I’m a petitioner for no more pigeonholing,
Who loves to keep you guessing.
I’m a medley, a mixture,
A collage of color,
A blended body shifting shades,
A cultural chameleon
Of ambiguous ancestry and hybrid heritage.”