So…What Are You?
I love Venice Beach for several reasons, but perhaps none more than the vast multiculturalism that you couldn’t escape, even if you wanted to. Venice Beach is an amazing melting pot that cultivates self acceptance, art and creativity. The diversity that exists here permeates well beyond ethnicity. On an everyday trek to Leona I can pass by people dealing with homelessness, and only a few blocks further watch million-dollar contracts being signed over lunch. I find this sort of mixed bag of experiences striking! It’s almost wondrous when you consider how dissimilar we all are, and how fragments of our lives resemble each other, all while sharing the same space.
I think that’s why my heartbeat pulses in sync with Venice Beach. Diversity is something I’ve always embraced, especially since my existence has been cocooned by it from the womb. It is also the framework around the not-so-subtle question I’m asked most by people:
So, what are you?
It’s a question with a thousand implications, most unspoken, left to be insinuated. For the ones asking the question, I think there’s a secret desire of getting the question answered by the unsuspecting participant, and freeing themselves from the burden of asking what they really mean: why is your skin darker than mine?
Well, let’s start here: My birth certificate says caucasian.
But that’s a minor detail.
I’m a biracial woman who was adopted transracially. My biological mother was white, and my biological father was black. However, at the time of my birth, my bio mother’s boyfriend was white. (Paperwork can get messy when details aren’t perfectly in place.)
I have two white parents. They’re the mom and dad who raised me, the only parents I know. My family was loving, blessed, and my life reflected that. Growing up, I found myself among what now sounds like a cliche to many, but is nevertheless true for me: I lived between two worlds.
For many of us racial co-habitators, there’s a constant either/or placement problem between those two worlds in which we live. Box number one is easily selected; it relies solely on what others can visually perceive about someone. It’s the neat box, the everything-makes-sense box. It keeps everyone else comfortable, even if you aren’t. Then there’s the self-image box. This one is often the most complicated. I’ll refer to this one as the “square peg, round hole” box. It challenges people to not only allow individuals to express and take ownership of their own realities, but also to make an effort to learn about the people around them and go beyond the surface assumption of it all.
My complexion and my unique entrance into the world as an infant have both shaped my perspective in ways you couldn’t imagine. So what have I done with all of this? Simply put, I’ve embraced it. I’ve embraced all of it. And I’ve embraced me – all of me. Like Venice Beach, I’ve chosen to celebrate me, others like me, and others not like me – and love them all for the singular aspects they contribute to the larger landscape. It’s the motto I’ve always lived by, even when others had difficulty doing the same.
Still with me? Buckle up for the next entry.