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A Cultural Split

BY ABBY STAFFORD


My relationship with my own culture has never been a linear one. It is my own, and yet sometimes that doesn’t feel to be the case. I do not speak the language that slides like butter off of my mother’s tongue. I do not possess my mother’s warm chestnut skin, nor my father’s curly ribbons of hair. I do not eat correctly, which I quickly discovered when my peers were left shocked (...or horrified, or disgusted) at the sight of me picking up the food from my lunchbox with the pads of my fingertips, shoving handfuls of rice into my mouth without a second thought. I do not know what to select when I’m asked for my race. I do not know how to live correctly as a biracial woman.


My eureka moment was when I discovered that my feelings of isolation and of being misunderstood were a common experience among others like me. I realized that I was never alone in my state of having two cultures and not fitting perfectly into the mold of either. It wasn’t until middle school until I finally got to speak to someone who identified as mixed, but it wasn’t just one person--one after another I was met with people who understood my perspective. These meetings opened the door to a new world of possibilities for who I am and for who I had the possibility of becoming. Our conversations allowed us to share our stories, and oftentimes we found that we related more to each other than we did to the groups that made up our identities. We all understood the struggle of being stuck in the middle, between parents and peers, the media and your mind, all playing tug of war with who you are, or rather, with who you ought to be.


Not only has this exposure to other multiracial children made me lifelong friends and aided in my discovery of where I belong, but it’s also led me to a club at my school. Over an unintentionally deep conversation about race and the intricacies of the biracial experience, my friend and I came to the conclusion that we should start a club for mixed race kids like us to discuss all aspects of our identities. We had a vision; we aimed to create a supportive environment filled with other students who understand or are, at the very least, willing to listen.


Unfortunately there is no immediate remedy to the balancing act that multiracial children will have to play. But, by opening up spaces for conversation and opportunity, like the one I hope to create in my own community, maybe there will come a day in the future when they can grow up without worrying about what box they fit into. All I know is that I will not be giving up on this dream until I see it translate to reality. This dream--birthed from countless relatable exchanges with my mixed race peers--is a goal that I’m determined to work towards little by little each day.

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