Half and Half

Growing up, I hated standardized testing. Not only because I hate the logic that school institutions have where your entire academic knowledge must be comprised into one single test score, which continues to carry a massive weight over the rest of your academic career. No, my feelings surrounding that topic can be a separate article all on its own.

 

I hated those race boxes that you needed to check before taking the test. They allowed you to pick five options—they were American Indian or Alaskan Native, Asian, Black or African American, White, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. But you could only select one. I always left them blank.

 

I'm a mixed person. I have a Mom who is Indian and a Dad who is African American. I can't even begin to count the number of times I've had people come up to me and ask what my background is and, once I tell them that I am Indian and African American, their face drops to an expression of shock. Sometimes, with a blend of amazement. One of my earliest memories was when I was five-years-old and I was playing in my neighborhood park, and a young couple came up to me and asked what my ethnicity was. I answered them, in my childish nonsense, and they replied, "Wow, you're just so pretty!"

 

I'm not trying to give the "woe is me" attitude here, I know others have had it far worse. Plus, I can guarantee that 98% of the time when people ask me about my ethnicity, they mean no harm or foul. But that doesn't stop the identity crisis from happening.

"Wow, you're just so pretty!"

"That's surprising!"

"You're pretty for a brown girl!"

What does all that mean? Are the standards for people of color much lower for white people? Is that why I spent my entire childhood straightening my hair to get rid of my natural waves and curls in order to conform? I grew up in a predominantly white area, so a good chunk of my friends was white, but I have yet to meet anybody with the same background as me. People didn't view me as "black enough" or "Indian enough “and it made me feel as if I didn't fit into any label.  It made me feel lonely at times because I did not have anyone that related to my experiences. Even being at Denison, it's still the same predicament. If anything, it's even worse.

 

I know a lot of people say that you shouldn't feel like you must fit into one label, but a lot of institutions implement this mindset. Filling out those ethnicity boxes might seem miniscule, but it begins to build up when you must go through that process time after time. Checking the box for "Asian" made me feel like I was denying my Dad and checking the box for "African American" made me feel like I was denying my Mom. I even remember when I was making an account for HerCampus, they only allowed you to select one race. I could not decide. (I think I ended up calling my Mom because I was in that much of a pickle. I know, it was a little pathetic.)

 

I think that institutions need to have better accommodation for those that struggle with their racial identity. I thought that this crisis would be a phase that would eventually dwindle down, but I still wrestle with this issue, and it will probably be one that I have for the many years to come. Again, I am no martyr here, but if myself and others had better representation and accommodation for those that tackle with this specific internal conflict, everything would've been a bit easier on us in the most everlasting way.