I dedicated a lot of time to put this together and when I released my harsh experiences of how I had been treated; my work was blindly censored. I sent my piece to several colleagues, friends and peers because I wanted a genuine reaction to my writing. It was described as raw and very honest. This piece was rejected several times and silencing a conversation. Blind censorship is like putting a bandaid over a bullet wound; so I apologize to readers if this article veers off in a way that pulls you from my experiences that I am sharing to the world so let others know that they are not alone.
When I was growing up I never thought much about my complexion or my features until they were pointed out. I never thought much about my mother’s complexion or features until they were pointed out. I never thought much about my father’s complexion or features until they were pointed out. I never thought much about my grandmothers and how different they look from each other. I never thought of anyone’s complexion. I was not completely color blind because I did recognize culture but I was amazed by it. I like my color. I was amazed by people who live differently from me regardless of their skin color. I was drawn in by my curiosity how other parents treat their children, how other people’s lives truly were, if there were cultural differences I was simply intrigued and wanted to learn more and especially if they spoke a different language.
I have red and brown skin with a yellow undertone, high cheekbones, big teeth, square face, curly hair and slanted eyes. My father is red and brown even though his siblings very on the scale of color. My mother has natural yellow hair and yellow skin and she can air dry her hair straight even though she likes to try to make it curly. One grandmother is red and brown with long “Indian hair” and the other is olive with natural red bits in her wavy hair. I have uncles that are darker than me and I have aunts that are much lighter than me. My family is the Crayola box. My mother forbade me from using any street slang and it was not permitted in my grandmother’s home as well. Books and education were always a prime encouragement.
My neighborhood was a mixture of South American, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Dominican and then the across the street were primarily all Black Americans; this made up my school. I grew up knowing how colorful my family was and conversations with my mother I didn’t understand during the convo about being judged on my appearance. I never understood at the time why she addressed and then school began. I was aware of family’s mixed background but I assumed everyone was mixed like me.
It started with pulling back the ends of their eyes. Graduated to questions “why are you so ___?”. The word in the blank space is the first physical observation made to anyone with slanted eyes but I’m not permitted to write the word I was called; I digress. From questions to making paper hats while sticking out their teeth and squinting their eyes. Making up Chinese words to say to me. Mimicking a made up “Chinese” walk and bow at me. Adults would comment or laugh when their kids mocked me. If I answered I was Black I was met with skepticism as if I was trying to hide something. “But what else, cuz you don’t fully Black?”, with that type of pressure I’d shrug because I understood the game. If I didn’t answer correctly the questions would come harder and if I admitted to being mixed with Chinese; then the ignorant commentary followed. I wasn’t part of their group nor was I allowed to play with them. The Hispanic kids or South Americans were open to me and thought I was from the same background. I didn’t mind being mistaken for their cultures; I was happy some kids would talk to me.
The Chinese mockery continued into middle school even when I hid it. I would cry to my mother that I wanted to be round eyed but my mother would reply “Chinese people have beautiful eyes”. I got tired of being at different schools and encountering stupidity. Finally, one boy who used to follow up and down hallways in between classes bent over with his teeth out yelling “Chinese” words at me crossed the line. Perhaps it didn’t help that my father is not where my Chinese roots are from studied martial arts. However, this particular day he kept bothering me and I asked to be left alone. When I continued to walk on he reached to grab my wrist. I released his grasp and dropped down to sweep him; in the midst of him falling I stood up fast enough to kick him into a door. All of the boys who were standing outside watching stood still. I was angry but the boys moved out of the way and let me walk to class; that boy never bothered me again especially since he was embarrassed in front of his peers.
When I was older I made Asian friends who shared similar experiences; which confused me. I didn’t anticipate to share experiences with them because I don’t advertise my mixture nor do I have the urge to be something else. The relation was surprising but comforting. I began to meet people who were mixed with Asian but I never considered myself to be Asian. Some of my Asian friends mixed or not, have said that I am very Chinese which I have never understood but I take it as a compliment from them. Perhaps I do have Chinese habits but I also spent a good chunk of my childhood watching Chinese television and operas. I would also write all of the characters I saw on the television and even created books because I was fast enough to write all the characters down. My mother eventually discovered my books because they were stacks of them underneath my bed because I had them there. I would echo back the words to the television that I heard and it was the easiest way to keep me entertained as a child. I began to feel more comfortable with my mixed friends because I felt like people who are mixed whether we share the same culture or not is where I belong. I adapted when natives of different countries would approach me with their native tongue as if I was one of them (regardless of country) without the need to identify myself because I was welcomed.
However, what is interesting is that my experiences changed of being the “Chinese mix“ because I would get people who were upset that I did not act the way that they identified me as. For example, I would be approached by people who were angry that I acknowledged myself as mixed and did not racially identify myself as only one thing other than American they would be offended. People felt the need to tell me that I was not Asian enough to call myself Asian even though I did not advertise or tell people that. People felt the need to tell me I was not black enough. People who were not of an Asian background would what tell me that I was “too Asian“ and that was the only time I would take offense. I would take offense because it would take me back to the memories of my childhood going into grade school and I knew that it was meant as something bad.
I like my complexion and my eyes but I don’t think the color of my skin nor my genetic material was right for anyone to approach me, or judge me, or throw bottles at me, steal my belongings, pick fights, ask if I knew kung fu, throw ice bottles at me while I’m swinging, or grab me, test me to see if I can move fast enough from their hits, make up languages of what they thought I spoke and ask me ignorant questions about why my mother was a different color from me or why my grandmother had a different complexion from me. I’ve learned to dismiss people of that ignorance and I take any native mistaking me as one of their as a compliment whether it is Muslim, South East Asian, Brazilian, Dominican, Puerto-Rican, Canadian, North African (particularly Egypt usually), Native American, Chinese mix, Japanese mix; I don’t care and welcome any native who talks to me in their tongue. I’m friendly and don’t think much of it.
When the Asian attacks started I paid very close attention to the news. I immediately contacted all of my Asian friends mixed or not because I wanted them to know that I wanted them to be safe; then I was surprised by one of my friends who told me “You’re one of us, be careful too”. It startled me to hear those words. I’ve spent my life not racially accepted by closed minded people or being “too this” or “too that” to be one of them or ignorantly judged for my experiences instead of upset about my experience with me. Her words went through me & I immediately felt the same “alert” behavior I had as a kid when I would say I wasn't what they asked I was. I hadn’t considered I would be counted. I was angry for my loved ones. I wanted to protect my loved ones and innocent strangers just walking home. Her words and the news brought back chilling experiences from my childhood and concerns about the people dearest to me. For so long I would joke that if I needed to flee the country I have many countries to escape to because I could blend in and she startled me stating my blending in could be dangerous. I haven’t been targeted but I also don’t know where I would stand in the eyes of an attacker to anyone.
I would hear some friends discuss how they wished they could “blend” in better, how their elder family members made comments of hiding their “Asian”-ness and it broke my heart. I knew that path in my own experiences. No one has the right to judge and act on those judgments of another whether it is assuming how they act without demonstrating or even smaller incidents of assuming someone doesn’t speak English. No one has the right to attack another person because of ANYTHING! I don’t care if they dress differently, pray differently, or look different; as long as a person is not attempting to INTENTIONALLY cause you harm mentally, emotionally or physically then LEAVE THEM ALONE. No one is obligated to like everyone but we are obligated to leave people alone. We are all irrelevant to each other until we choose to make ourselves relevant; so why not make that relevance positive or keep it neutral. I can’t stand hatred. I can’t stand bullies. I don’t do ugly. We are all humans struggling to live. We all have tribulations. We all are born and we all will die. Hatred is exhausting. Attacking a person requires more energy than if you walked by them and left them alone. It takes up energy to tell someone who they are supposed to be if they don’t fit your ideals. It wastes energy to spread hatred. Everyone has something they can do to benefit their lives; so utilize that energy to improve your life without harming others. You don’t like Asians, don’t go up to them. You don’t like Blacks, don’t go up to them. You don’t like Hispanics, don’t go up to them. You don’t like Whites, don’t go up to them. Life is difficult without the assistance of some jack rabbit thinking his opinion has to be demonstrated through hatred and violence.