Last night after the weekly meeting with my summer students, a few of the graduate mentors and I stayed late and had a very open and honest conversation about what it’s like growing up disadvantaged in the US. Every one of us grew up disadvantaged somehow (whether it was monetarily, socially, racially or some combination of those) so it was interesting to hear so many different stories that I could still completely associate with.
That being said, the conversation was kind of hard for me because I have gotten pretty good at actively avoiding talking about the fact that I am half black and half white. I think it has to do with the fact that this difference is constantly exposed to everyone and is a topic of discussion pretty much every day of my life, whether I want it to or not. I mostly just go along with jokes and field other comments related to my race as appropriately as I see fit.
Anyway, back to last night: to be completely honest, I was terrified of the conversation, even though I was in a completely safe environment and everyone was interested in hearing about my story. As I opened up and shared/answered questions, I began to find a sense of empowerment about myself. I saw my life before me and how almost every major decision I made in my life was influenced by the fact that I was ashamed of being “two halves” instead of “one whole.” I spent years striving so hard to “fit in” by ignoring the black half of me and being angry at anyone who tried to remind me about it (made very easy because of my skin color). And now I am finally beginning to realize that it doesn’t matter – that I don’t have to choose one over the other – I can just be me, Potassium, who happens to have both African American and Caucasian heritage. Now I can finally stop running away from who I’m not and instead focus on who I am. Welcome home, me.
Anyone else want to share a story?