My Experience As the "Other"
When I was in High School, I remember filling out college applications with frustration and confusion. I was always stuck on the census forms, you know, the one in which they ask you which race you are. The catch is that they only let you pick one. So my problem was, and somehow still is, that I am more than one race. Why is that still a problem, you ask? Well, I still have to fill out those silly forms. I always had to stop myself and really question whether it was more beneficial to put “African American, Black” or to put “Other”.
Back then, I was told that putting “African American” would make things easier for me. I would be looked at in a different light and could have possibly been accepted simply based on the fact that that college was trying to reach their diversity quota. How stupid is that? However, if I just chose one thing then I always felt like I was lying. I am not one race. I do not belong to the “one drop” rule. I am of mixed race. I will always be of mixed race and so will my future children. That is not something I can change. So what is the point of lying about it on a form that probably doesn’t really matter?
So do you want to know what I actually put? I circled in “Other”. I was officially labeled as “Other”. That sounds so impersonal, weird, and not exactly how I ever imagined I would ever be labeled. But honestly, if you really think about it, being of mixed race has never been a foreign concept. So why would they feel the need to put “Other” on those stupid census forms, instead of “Mixed Race”?
What I Found
I have found through my experience in America, that being of mixed race is not something that is a good thing. It is often confusing, and offensive to certain people. Growing up I did experience racism. Per my personal experience, I can not say that because my skin is lighter, I was favored more. In fact, my features and the color of my skin, I was often singled out. I went to schools that had a majority of White students. So I was the token “Black”, kid. I often felt ostracized and got picked on quite a bit for my curly hair, and sometimes I was even questioned about if I even knew who my Dad was. What kind of asshole kid asks that?
Anyway, when I got older and entered High School, I was often questioned about what race I was. Why does it matter anyway? I am worth more than the color of my skin. There is a whole person in this epidermis, you know. I have to admit that the guesses I got in High School were interesting though. Some kids said Asian, Egyptian, Indian, Mexican, and only a few people got the mixed with Black and European choice.
Looking back, I have to laugh. The focus of my teenage years was trying to act like the constant quizzing about my race didn’t affect me. But now, I ask people, “why does it matter?” Seriously though, why does it actually matter? I am not defined by my race. I am a person, a living breathing human being. I have a life, I am loved, and I have opinions. I am not a novelty.
My point is that I used to be caught up in a huge identity crisis over being labeled as one race or another. Yet, I really knew who I was all along. I never needed to feel pressured to put “African American or Black” and I certainly didn’t need to feel upset over putting “Other”. I am not defined by those terms. I am a multiracial, person of color. I am proud of that. I shouldn’t get better treatment for claiming one race over the other, and I shouldn’t be ashamed to claim all of my races. In fact, I shouldn’t even be using the word “race”, as it is not a real thing. I have a beautiful heritage stemming from multiple cultures. That is what I am proud of. That is how I will be defined. Not by writing down “Other”.
Whenever I fill out census forms now, I always create a little circle right under “Other” that says “Mixed Race”. I always let out a little giggle too, because finally, I get to be defined as something that is more relatable than “Other”.