I’m sure you’ve noticed I talk about the POC culture in this blog, how things are different for us based on how you were raised or the experiences we’ve grown up with.
However, another big part of POC culture is confusion. Think about the term “African-American” – It is known as the politically correct for black individuals, but what does that really mean? Very few of us know our African roots.
My mother was born in England and my father was born in Jamaica and when they have thought about tracing their ancestry, they know that they will eventually hit a dead end – not because of lack of documentation, but rather extermination as black slaves had to take on their slave masters’ name thus erasing their history.
These are only some sentiments of confusion in black culture specifically. It becomes even more complicated from a bi-racial perspective. This is why I wanted to give the talking stick to someone who also knows the struggles of ethnic ambiguity so I asked Joanna also known as Professional Sad Girl to speak to her experience as a mixed race POC:
Growing up, I started to realize that there was no one who really looked like me. In fact, my parents bought me two dolls when I was born, one white and one brown, because they couldn’t find any that actually looked like me. I didn’t even look particularly like my parents, and my mom was occasionally asked where I was adopted from when we were in public. I spent the majority of my childhood trying to find characters in books and television that I felt like I could relate to in image, with no real success.
Racial ambiguity can be pretty lonely. Looking like no one else makes it hard for me to find communities of belonging. Part of this relates to my experience as the child of immigrants: I can’t fully identify with Canadian culture, but I also can’t truly relate to their home culture. Racial and ethnic groups are a great way for POCS to connect with a group of others with similar life experiences, but as a racially ambiguous person I’ve never felt like I could belong within one, or that I would be co-opting a space or identity that’s not really my own.
On one hand, I recognize that I have the unique privilege of evading stereotypes and perceptions associated with specific racial and ethnic groups; sometimes my racial ambiguity and the confusion that surrounds it gives me the opportunity to define myself based on my own personality and values. But that’s only sometimes. A much more common reality I’ve faced is that people treat my ethnic ambiguity like the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter; basically, they take the unidentifiable nature of my race and project whatever they want me to be.
• White friends throughout my life have considered me to be a “tan white girl”
• People of Latinx and Hispanic people have spoken to me in Spanish and been annoyed when I explained that I actually was not Latinx/Hispanic/Spanish
• I’ve actually had a man try to convince me that I was lying when I told him that I was not from the Middle East
When I was younger, I really searched for tangible ways to feel a sense of belonging and define myself. Since I attended a dominantly white elementary school, that translated into appearing as “white” and behaving as “white” as possible. The past five years of my life has been a race to reclaim my actual culture, my ethnic ambiguity, and present myself on my own terms while refusing to passively let others impose their ideas upon. I’m still learning and still figuring it out, but it’s a step.
A Conscious Black Woman
A Professional Sad Girl