“What I Am”

I had a dream about my childhood when I lived in California, simply woke up from my dream, wide-eyed. Now that it’s been an hour since I have awoken and can’t fall back to sleep, I decided I’ll just blog about it.

Now that I am twenty years old, I got questioned all the time of “what I am”. I would respond, “I am half Portuguese and half Japanese”. Now, when I was younger and kids used to ask me “what I am”, I would say, “well my Japanese mommy and my Portuguese daddy got together and made me”. They didn’t care what I was, they just wanted to know why I looked different from them. I never had to answer that question until I moved to Michigan.

Having been born and growing up in California where the races are diverse, I never got questioned. I never got questioned because surrounding me at knee-high tables were other little youngsters who were African American, Mexican, Chinese, etc. It was definitely easier living in California where I didn’t have to keep explaining “what I am”.

Then, I move to Michigan. Got to school, nothing but white people. Great. Kids stared at me like I was a foreign object. To them I was. Living in a small town that was 95% majority white people and the other 5% were African American and Asian, I got that look constantly. I never really thought about asking my mom if she got weird looks too, I would assume she did.

My Family and Cultural Diversity Professor brought up the topic of racism the other day. My first initial thought was to sink down into my chair and hide. I instantly thought to myself, why do I feel this way? All throughout grade school I would get made fun of when certain topics arose. For example, in history class, because the topic we were discussing that week was Pearl Harbor I would get picked on. “You bombed Pearl Harbor,” kids would say. Technically, no I didn’t. I wasn’t even born yet. Also, I am an American. Why would I bomb myself? My grandparents were born in Hawaii. On December, 7, 1941 my grandparents were in class getting bombed on. With those comments about bombing Pearl Harbor, didn’t sit with me very well. That’s exactly why my first instinct is to hide.

My Professor asked, “Why and how was the first time you were ever aware of your race?” The first thing that came into my head, was moving from California to Michigan. You could say I had some difficulties transitioning into having to ignore uneducated children’s comments, I blame the parents. Tears were shed but my mom always told me to be proud of who I am and to not let anyone put me down because of “what I am”. I am not going to lie, for the longest time I hated that I was Japanese. On forms in grade school, the question where it asks you to fill in your dominant heritage, I would fill in the bubble “white”. One day in middle school, my teacher came by and told me to switch it to Asian. I guess she knew my dominant heritage better than me. Or was it because I look more asian than white? Until High School, filling out forms for college applications I knew to fill in the bubble “Asian”. Why? Because I had a better chance getting into a college, my teacher also taught me that.

I don’t hate being Asian now. The more educated I got and the people around me, they stopped the racist comments. I myself found to laugh at any Asian comment, I even make up funny comments to say about myself. In the end it was me, myself, that had to become content with my heritage.

XOXO Cassidy

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