I drifted through elementary school
in a state of perpetual self-confidence
, because I knew that no matter what happened, I knew that I would always
be different, and therefore I knew I would always be special
. For example: if I stayed in America, I would always be half Indian. If I went to India
, I would always be half white. I didn't
look either, although I dutifully
participated in Indian dances at my school and went to parties that friends of my Indian mother
held, although I was usually the only person not in traditional dress
and always the only person with mostly white skin
. I clutched a book to my side as my security blanket
, ignoring people's sometimes condescending stares and telling myself that it was okay, because I looked like Snow White
, and everyone else was just jealous.
After that abrupt rite of passage that slingshoted me into my teenage years like an amusement-park goer not-so-gracefully emerging from a waterslide, I began to realize that it seemed like everyone else I knew had a racial or cultural identity. My friends (which have mostly been Chinese, for some reason) all could converse with one another in their native tongues and would eat cultural food for lunch. My few white friends dismissed me as "something else". My even fewer Indian friends didn't even know that part of me was Indian. Even my similarly biracial brother played the tabla and had mostly Indian friends. His skin was dark, his hair was comfortingly brown.
And then I began to realize that in this era in which I pored over teen magazines so that I could create my "unique style" that would look just like the model on the seventeenth page, being different was just not all that cool. Did anyone else have to deal with that constant question bombarded at them from all sides by STRANGERS?
What are you?
-What do you mean what am I? I'm human. (Witty, huh? Imagine me chortling.)
- I mean, like, what race?
-I'm half Indian. For some reason this was always my first response.
- Half... Indian? What's the other half?
- (Primly) Caucasian.
This is where I would smile sadly in the face of their blank stares and walk away.
Through these dark years, (accented with tears and a little bit of razors) I plodded forward. Feeling all that stereotypical teenage angst, wondering if there was someone somewhere who would love me the way I was.
Fortunately, those years are over. I have a boyfriend who loves me the way I am. I have a biology teacher who is part Japanese, part German, part Irish. A few days ago I went to a party of psychologists and engineers (my parents have interesting friends) and I met a girl who was half Indian, half white, just like me. And I realized that I was a normal person, that having two races wasn't necessarily worse than having one, that in fact it might even be better. Or that maybe race was only a social construct and didn't even exist as far as anything important was concerned.
Not to say that now biraciality still isn't part of my identity -- although I believe that most of the time, I don't let it drive my future. But it is part of me, and I do enjoy reading about people like me. And while I'm far from floating around in a state of perpetual self-confidence, there are times when I feel a certain pride in my identity. Hey... and it's useful when you can write essays about being biracial on the SAT II Writing and get that much-coveted 800.
About a week ago, my mom freaked out because it said "Caucasian" as my racial identity on the form that I had to fill out for school. I hadn't wanted to put "Asian" because I was part Indian, and Asian was a big thing at my school, and Indian didn't count as Asian in the Land of Teenage Labels. After a short argument with my mom ( Put something else? What? I don't know, just change it! But I don't want people to treat you as white, you're actually so much more than that. I retreated to my room, the "White" form still intact. Oh, well.
At least I know myself. I am not a mutt, I am not exotic, I am not diseased. I am just me.
End self-absorbed rant.