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I Regret Not Appreciating My Cultures as a Young Mixed Kid

I have a vivid memory of me as a child in class, we had been talking about our cultures. We were comparing them and talking about things that we celebrated, the food that we ate, and what we did with our families. As everyone shared with each other, I slowly began to realize that the things that everyone else did were different than me. They all could relate to one another about their practices and the things they did with their family, but I couldn’t. When it was my turn, I didn’t know what to say. I felt that what I did with my family would be judged because my white peers around me all said basically the same things. It was at that moment that I truly realized how different I was compared to my peers. It was at that moment that I lied and said I did the same as them, so I could feel like I belonged with them. While this moment shouldn’t be as ingrained in my head as much as it is, it remains, because it was in moments like these that I slowly began to hate being mixed, I hated my cultures that were different from everybody else. 

[bf_image id="pwn4tvff7f72v3nrff7b4t6"] Growing up a mixed child, I felt conflicted. On one hand, I felt immense pride that I had a unique ethnic background, having an appreciation for my culture. But on the other hand, a more heavy hand I was embarrassed and scared. The fear of being left out due to my apparent differences compared to the rest of my white peers. When you are a child, all you want to do is play and get along with everyone, but knowing you are different in one aspect can affect your experiences on the playground. You become blatantly aware that they don’t want to play with you because you are different. 

Being Filipino and Mexican had never felt like more of a burden to me than in these moments.

It was hard to make friends in general, now even more so with the added layer of my skin and culture getting in the way. And when you are beginning to be alienated, you only have two options. You either become like them or you embrace your differences and find people who won’t judge you. But what are you to do when there is no second option when there are not other kids who don’t mind the differences? You are forced into the former.

While I was able to make friends with other minority kids, more often than not, they were not mixed children either. Yes they were minorities, and in that way, I was able to connect with them, but they were still “full” of whatever they were. They did not have the experience of growing up with two different cultures like I did and this left me feeling even more alienated.

So, what did I do? I chose to abandon my cultures because I felt that was the only way for me to fit in with everyone. If I could mold myself into what they were then I would be accepted. 

Due to that one choice when I was young and was feeling lonely because I had no one to play with recess, I reflect back as an eighteen-year-old, feeling lost and separated from my culture more than ever before and I regret that I decided to abandon my cultural identity in order to fit in.

[bf_image id="h868kwxbb9qvv7b6gz3jf6"] If I had any advice for young mixed kids, I would tell them not to feel like it is an obligation to fit in with everyone else, especially when the one thing that is in your way is your cultural and ethnic identity.

While I was able to make friends, they were never a truly permanent part of my life, they have not remained in my life until now. My cultural and ethnic identity could’ve been with me throughout my life, but because I felt scared of being alone at recess, I abandoned any sense of my cultural identity and allowed for it to slowly drift out of my reach. As a mixed child of two minorities, Filipino and Mexican, I want to feel proud of my heritages, take pride in my beautiful cultures, and do things that emulate how proud I truly am to be a part of them.

But I feel that I no longer can, I lost so many years of sharing and practicing my cultures, that I feel like I am no longer allowed to feel proud of them. I suddenly lost the privilege to be proud of them and take part in learning about them. I neglected my culture for so long that I feel like I am a fake for trying to learn now. 

[bf_image id="q5ggio-2xtmls-a7h6me"] My biggest regret as a young mixed child: not being able to appreciate my cultures for how beautiful and unique they are, and now feeling like I no longer have the right to appreciate them.

If you are mixed, you know the pain of feeling like you have to choose between fitting in or embracing your culture. It shouldn’t have to feel like you can only have one. Find the people around you that won’t highlight your cultural differences, find the people who genuinely want to be friends with you. Don’t force yourself to choose to have friends over your identity, you deserve the right to appreciate your culture without having to worry about losing your friends in the process; if this is a factor for them, they were never truly your friends. I know now not to take my heritages for granted, and take pride in being Filipino and Mexican.

 

Jade Zuniga

UC Riverside '24

I am a third-year Psychology major with an Organizational Behavior minor, looking to improve my writing skills. I love listening to music, watching movies, eating and trying different foods, and playing with my cats.
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