CRF Reflection: Not One or the Other, But BothPosted October 20th, 2010 by mclaugke
Moving into the residence halls this year was a major turning point in my life. I never would have imagined that my skin color would ever be a thought in my mind when meeting new people. Although I have some Japanese ancestors, throughout my life, I have grown up primarily in a white family with white friends in a white neighborhood at a white dominated school. I considered myself a part of the pack. I assumed the role of a white person. I thought I fit in.
This belief was later questioned once I began learning more about myself in my role as a CRF. I started to ask myself how I could connect more to my imaginary white identity. I began to come up with excuses as to why I should be considered white by other people and began to make connections and forge bridges to make myself appear more “white”. I ignored the image I saw in the mirror.
After believing I was white for 19 years, in only a week that all changed. Since I became more aware of my skin color, I began paying attention to the way white people treated me as they moved into the residence halls. I began to notice different dynamics people had with me as opposed to people that were white. Initially it was the speed in which people approached me and wanted to befriend me. It took a couple of days for people to come over and really get to know me. My door was always open and I was always welcoming, but no one really took advantage of the invitation to come in and say hi. I really had to work for their respect and their attention in the beginning of the year.
The next thing I realized was once people got to know me better, the weird feelings began to disappear. They started to see that I act “white”, talk “white”, etc. and they began to connect with me. The only problem was that in the end, I am not white. I am still a person of color in comparison to them. This is the internal struggle that I have had to deal with.
I began to realize this was leading to a bigger problem for me. Instead of trying to connect to a white identity, I started to look back at my Japanese ancestry and tried to connect with that heritage a little bit more. In the first week that I had other residents on my floor in Callahan I learned that I was a fourth generation Japanese-American in the United States. It also became more apparent that I could not speak Japanese. Finally, I did not grow up in an interracial household or a house with parents of color. The household that I grew up in was all white. My biological father and my mother divorced when I was one, and since that day, I grew up with my white mother, white stepfather, and white little brother. In order to connect with a Japanese identity, once again I would have to fake it. So, not being able to connect with the white identity or the person of color identity has left me stuck in the middle. I am biracial.
It took one week to change my life, and I realized that I had to deal with my internalized racism that I had grown up believing. I fell into the idea that being white was the ideal situation, and I tried so hard to fit in. I glorified the white identity while I looked down on my other identity, heritage, and roots. I also realized that I don’t fit in entirely as a person of color either. I am proud to say that I am a little of both, and it has taught me a lot, however there is still so much more to learn. This is a journey that I am currently enduring and I still cannot see the end, but my question for you is: Is there an end?
Community Relations Facilitator – Eastside/RHA and CoOp Liaison
www.oregonstate.edu/diversity_initiative/crfThe comments shared by the Community Relations Facilitator program are strictly the point of view from the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of UHDS. If this article has inspired a desire to dialogue, the author, another CRF, and/or any Resident Assistant, Cooperative Director, or Resident Director would be happy to participate. Please contact (Victor.Santana-Melgoza@oregonstate.edu), UHDS Multicultural Resource Coordinator, to assist in making arrangements.