These are my personal ramblings on life through the lens of my multiracial/multicultural worldview... and probably other stuff too...

Friday, December 31, 2010

Thankful for Diversity

As the year comes to a close, we tend to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.  There is no question that the world is changing.  The 2010 Census demographic results will not  be available until February, but I am sure that they will show a marked increase in individuals claiming two or more races.  This population has remained invisible for much too long.  Many individuals with a mixed race background have not fit neatly into traditionally defined identity boxes and now there is at least a way to honor one's heritage without simply being labeled as 'other'. 

I am thankful to be surrounded by the positive examples of awareness and acceptance of the highbred nation.  Last year my family moved from Brooklyn, NY to Atlanta, GA.  Brooklyn is a city rich with diversity; in many ways it celebrates diversity and multiculturalism.  I had some concerns about what we would find in Georgia.  Thus far I have been inspired and encouraged.  We moved to a wonderfully diverse neighborhood.  Tonight we will be gathering with other neighbors at the home of a couple who have an adopted son who is biracial.  Other guests include a single mother with a beautiful adopted girl from Guatemala and a White couple with a Mexican adopted daughter as well as a biological daughter (the one with brown skin, hair and eyes; the other with fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes).  Our neighbors are White, Black, Asian, Latino and every other hybrid in between with children who are just as diverse in their racial and cultural makeup.  Our neighbors are gay, straight, christian, agnostic, atheist, democrats, republicans, single income, dual income... you get the picture. 

In addition to the move, I was one of 28 fortunate enough to be accepted into a competitive clinical mental health counseling program.  Diversity is so important in this program that it is infused into the curriculum.  We even have a class that is completely devoted to social and cultural issues.  I see a commitment to diversity in my workplace.  There are intentional conversations about ensuring that our community successfully engage in intercultural activities which promote competence in their lives.  I look at my wonderful network of friends and marvel at the range of diversity. 

As 2010 comes to a close, I feel thankful.  And I feel hope.  I feel hope that my sweet highbred daughter will grow up in a world that embraces her and celebrates her and does not try to confine her to a box with a label.  I wish you all many blessings and look forward to sharing with you in the coming year.  Happy New Year and God bless you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

Several years ago I was driving home for Christmas from grad school.  It was only about a 4.5 hour drive, but there was something terribly wrong with my car.  About and hour and half into the drive smoke was billowing from underneath the hood of my car and I noted, with sickening fear, that the hot/cold dial was in the red on hot.  It was after 7pm in the backwoods of the south and there were no main exits crowded with bustling civilization.  But, I had no choice; I had to stop the car and get help.  I pulled off to an exit with a gas station and hesitantly pulled in.

Why was I hesitant?  Nervous?  Scared, even?  I stuck out like a sore thumb.  I was not in my comfort zone; I was in an environment that has historically been hostile to people who look like me.  I quickly learned that no auto shops were open, no car rental places were available and there were no hotels to put me up for the night.  I was on the verge of crying as I sat in my smoking car on a cold, now rainy, dark evening in the middle of out-of-my-comfort-zone nowhere.  Desperation pulled me out to look under the hood of the car, even though I was fully aware of how useless I would remain, standing there trying to decipher what I could possible do to make my car better again. 

And then I saw him walking towards me.  He was lanky, White and looked like he would probably assault me with the n-word.  I started praying really hard and tried to not look nervous.  I can't remember his name, but what I can remember is how nice he was to me.  Yes, the man I had just colored with assumptions.  He asked me if everything was okay and offered to look under the hood.  It just so happened that his cousin was in the store and was a mechanic and would be happy to take a look as well.  So he went in and came back out with four other guys who all looked just the same.  The fear returned and I started thinking about all the bad things that can happen to a Black girl all by herself in foreign territory on a cold, dark night in the middle of nowhere.  And then I was assaulted. 

I was assaulted with kindness and concern.  One offered to go inside and get me some coffee; another suggested I wait inside the car with the heat on because it was cold outside; the mechanic determined what was wrong and told me to sit tight while he went to the auto parts store to get the right part to fix it; yet another offered to stay with me until the rest came back.  These guys made small talk while they fixed my car and insisted that I not bother with my money because they weren't going to take it; they wished me a Merry Christmas and sent me on my way. 

Every year I remember this moment in my life.  A moment where everything could have gone wrong.  Instead, I saw God's beauty in humanity.  Every day we focus on all that separates us; all that makes us different.  But, there are so many ways that we are all alike; so many things that unite us.  Every year I am reminded that a world generosity and goodness is possible - even more so if we could stop focusing on the things that divide and celebrate the things that unite.  Better yet, if we could celebrate the differences and the similarities that unite.  I see a miracle in that.  I remember it every year.  And I am thankful for those wonderful men who are so different from me.  I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Is You?

So, that is an actual question that someone asked me once.  "A human being," I tartly answered.  But I knew what he meant.  I just didn't feel like dealing with it at that particular moment.  And if you are mixed, like me, then you probably know exactly what I mean.  My mom is Korean and my dad is Black - a good ol military mix.  I managed to get through a good part of my early youth without it being an issue.  It may have been around 4th grade or so before I really recall realizing that I was somehow different.  But not in a negative way - it was just something that I noticed.  The negativity came around 9th grade.  Up until then we had primarily lived overseas on military bases.  Small town Wisconsin gave me a new perspective on race.  It was the first time I recalled hearing the n-word. 

It was also around the same time that I felt confused about marking 'black' when demographic information was requested.  I wasn't just black after all - I was korean too.  My mother saved me from further distress on that one.  She sat me down and affirmed that yes, I was also korean.  But, other people would look at me and see black and that is how I would be treated.  No one would ever look at me and think that I was korean.  Crisis resolved.  Yay mom.  But I was forever changed in how I looked at race, ethnicity, culture and diversity.  It was a good change; it brought a level of awareness of the good, the bad and the ugly.  But, it also brought with it a profound appreciation for our differences and how then can enrich our lives. 

I do identify as a black woman.  I also love and celebrate my korean heritage.  I think that I am lucky, though.  Because I know that so many others who are mixed do not have this solidarity and conviction in their bi/multiracial identity.  There are times that have been interesting for me.  For example, the LA riots.  I had to defend the koreans to the blacks and the blacks to the koreans.  And then there are the times when I have had to deal with 'not being black enough.'  But all in all, I am thankful to say that I am relatively unscathed and embrace my identity.  So, I refer back to my answer to the question: I am human.  I am a human being living and loving a diverse experience and benefiting from all that comes with it.  And work on your grammar, boo.