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My Race Isn’t For You To Decide

All my life I’ve had people tell what I am and what I’m not based on how I look. My race isn’t for anyone else but me to decide. Growing up, a lot of people would assume I was Black, or Indian because that’s how I looked to them. Looking at me, you probably wouldn’t know that I was multiracial. Just because I don’t look it, doesn’t mean that you get to decide what I am.

I often tell people that I’m a “mutt” because I’m not just one nationality and neither are my parents. My mother is English, Irish, Filipino, Hawaiian, Portuguese and Chinese. And my father is African American, West Indian and Dutch (you couldn’t tell that by looking at him though LOL). Honestly, you wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t tell you. To most people, my dad’s just Black and my mom’s just Asian because that’s how they look. Which is what a lot of people do to me.

My dad & my mom

To most people, I am just Black because that’s how I present but I am more than that. I am multiracial and I love each and every part of who I am. Aside from being Black, a huge part of who I am is also being Asian. Like I said, my mother is mostly Asian. She raised my siblings and I on a lot of Asian culture. She definitely cooks some of the best homemade Asian food I’ve ever had. While you can definitely tell my mom is Asian, I don’t really look it (at leas according to most people). In fact, when I tell people that I am, they’re often kind of shocked or don’t even believe me.

Me & my cousin on my last day in Hawaii (we were moving to Connecticut)!

Once in middle school, I actually had someone tell me that being Hawaiian wasn’t even a real thing. I thought they were joking but they very much were not. When I was younger a lot of people would assume that I was Indian or Hispanic because that’s how I looked to them. I hated it. People would say things like, “You have beautiful Indian hair” or “Do you speak Spanish? You look Dominican.” I wasn’t those nationalities, I knew what I was but it still made me feel confused. Why would someone say something like that when it wasn’t true?

Eventually, I realized that it was because of how I looked. I didn’t look like all those nationalities that I listed before. Was I supposed to? Just to be clear, the answer is no. I’m mixed, I wouldn’t look like just any one nationality but I had dark skin and to a lot of people that would make me just Black. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. When I got older, a woman told me that I got hired because I looked like I could speak Spanish. I couldn’t believe it, they didn’t ask me that in the interview nor was it a requirement.

A recent photo of my brothers and I with our mother

It still happens occasionally but I am truly proud to be multiracial. Because of my parents, nobody can place me into one racial category. I am so much more than that. I’m a blend of beautiful cultures and nationalities, I’m proud of that. I know that I may not look like those nationalities to you but they will always be a part of who I am. Nobody gets to tell me that except me. My race isn’t for you to decide.

Read NPR’s post Being Black In America: ‘We Have A Place In This World Too’, really great read!

Check out our Project Assistant Kailey’s post Being Mixed But White-Presenting here on TurningPointCT.org! 🙂