Sunday, July 1, 2018

Do You Really Have to Choose a Side to Indentify With

I'm thankful for the life I've lived. I've never felt like I needed labels. I've always felt like I was my own person and that was all I needed to be. I didn't need to be anyone's wife. I didn't need to be anyone's secretary or boss. I didn't need to be rich or poor. I didn't need to fit into a definition of any group of people. At least not up until the most recent chapters of my life. Now I struggle with feeling forced to choose labels for myself.

My kids are mixed race, born with olive-brown skin. Having grown up in a mixed family setting and then marrying a U.S. Marine, I never saw the side of life I'm being faced with now.

We lived on military bases the majority of our marriage. Military housing is full of intercultural marriages, mixed race children, and overall diversity. My kids grew up surrounded by a full spectrum of skin tones and people were actually called by their names. Sometimes we knew their ethnicity but many times we didn't. It wasn't exotic or abnormal to interact with non-Americans and thus there was no allure to fishing for those details.

These weren't all Americans marrying Asians abroad. Cultural background typically only came up when we had a gathering and someone brought food from their home country or when there was a wedding and something unusual came up. Like my Liberian friend who was marrying an American. His father built them a house next to his mother's home. I had to ask when I heard that. I learned that his father and mother had separate houses. They were happy not living together as a married couple. That's usually how we found out their ethnicity, through food or happy moments.

I just find the concept of having to identify with one race or culture so foreign. To me race isn't all about the color of your skin. That's far too narrow of a concept. There are white African Americans and brown Europeans. Not all Native Americans were brown. I've seen Punjabi's in India who's skin is lighter than mine. There are multiple white races, brown races and black races. Skin color can change over time due to evolutionary factors. It's simply not an accurate reflection of race.

I find it very difficult how dominant the aspects of the Indian cultural landscape are. It would seem they are almost demanding I change my way of life over to being more Indian as if it's the only way to live. I get it, India is a well-established country with lots of time-tested ways of doing things. They all work great - in India. I just can't help but feel like they don't take into account the factors that affect reality and life in other cultures and for other people.

When I was younger I had to find my place in life like everyone else does. I developed myself into who I wanted to be. That self wasn't defined by race, gender, nationality, etc. I established my place based on my accomplishments. I have always taught my kids and encouraged my friends to define themselves the same way. Race, gender and nationality have no place in defining a person's value. There are better left to being classifications on paper rather than an accurate reflection of self-worth.

I find it disheartening to hear people establish themselves by the color of their skin. This to me only perpetuates more racism and division among us. To define a value based on your skin color -or even shade as we see far too much of in India - is devaluing yourself as a person.

How about you? Do you feel as if you need to be more like an Indian or adjust to live more by your Indian partners culture than your own?

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