Identity Crisis: A Childhood of Racial Shame

Despite the fact I was born in the mid 80’s and racism wasn’t as prevalent during those times, as a child I still faced it every day.

My sister and I had to walk to take a bus to school which meant waiting at the bus stop and dealing with the Mexican children who thought they were better than us because we were black. Add that to the fact that I was mixed and had a hard time identifying with either of my racial backgrounds, being happy with my racial and cultural background was quite difficult, so difficult in fact that most days I wished I was white.

Identity Crisis: Racial ShameIt’s true growing up during those times was significantly easier than what they were in the 70’s, but having to deal with kids throwing rocks at you because of what they perceived you were racially, made it difficult to be proud of my heritage.

It didn’t make it any easier to know that I just wasn’t black enough and I was considered ugly to my Asian relatives because my skin was too dark. As a result I spent the majority of childhood trying to fit in and desperately wanting to be accepted, even if it meant kissing ass or committing heinous acts because one of the “cool” kids told me I should.

Half of my childhood, I can say I don’t recall and I wonder if it’s due to the fact that my mind needs to repress memories that hurt too much to think about.

Now as an adult, while I can understand that as a child, mentality, I would never have been able to grasp that I was selling my soul and trading my dignity for a fleeting moment of bliss, I can’t help but be ashamed of who I was.

In some ways, I wish that I had been stronger and more courageous, but in other ways I know those trials helped me to be who I am today: strong, resilient, unwavering.

I can’t say that if I have children their trials will be any easier nor can I say that things will be different and the racism I faced will no longer exist. I can’t even promise that they won’t face the identity crisis and racial shame I experienced, but what I can say is that despite how they feel, what they think, or what they face, they are not alone.

I only wish there was someone who was around to make me feel the same.

11 Responses to Identity Crisis: A Childhood of Racial Shame

  1. I love you, Angie. I hate imagining that kids grow up that way. Color of skin should not matter when we all bleed the same color, our hearts beat the same, and we all feel the same the way.

    In no way can I compare myself or my struggles growing up to the way black, mexican, or asian people had it. As a kid, I never knew their was a problem. One of my childhood friends were black. I never knew it was an issue to some people until I was older. My elementary school, was mostly white. That small town was run by rich Italians. We had one child who wasn’t white, he was mixed, but I never *saw* him experience any racial discrimination. When I moved schools, I had an issue with one girl. Because I didn’t like her, she and everyone else (because she told them) thought I was racist. I never understood it. My step dad is mixed. The color of his skin never mattered to me because he was there for us. He loved us. I didn’t like her because she was a bully. It had nothing to do with her race.

    It happened again when I was in Job Corps. I didn’t like ONE girl and was labeled a racist. Meanwhile, the minority in that school was white.

    I dislike people for who they are or how they treat others. The color of their skin doesn’t matter to me and it never has. To witness racism today breaks my heart. How can you dislike someone for the color of their skin? Something they can’t control?

    What’s worse than the adults spewing racism, is hearing children discuss it. All of it is directly from their parents and it makes me pity them and feel bad for who they will become. Racism, like homophobia, is disgusting and I hope one day, it’s tolerated.
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  2. I feel you on that one. People oftentimes mistake me for various races, and sometimes that can be a bad thing [although I get treated better other times, so it all evens out?]. Given my oblivious nature and my early experience with my xenophobic Japanese classmates, it didn’t get me all that much when I moved here. As soon as I embraced diversity and the concept of having a spectrum of identities, I decided not to care too much about fitting into an established identity. Instead, I chose to either identify myself as multiple identities, or establish my own. Whatever works, you know? :D

    Good news is that because interracial dating is becoming more common, children of next generation will have a slightly easier time getting exposed to racial ambiguity. This also depends on where you’ll end up. Urban areas are better than suburbs due to cultural diversity.
    Agent Q recently posted… Oversimplifying DesperationMy Profile

  3. I think it is so awful that even today race is such an issue. I am glad that I was always taught by my family that we are all people and should all be treated the same. To be honest I see race as something like eye colour or hair colour. It’s just another random feature of a person. I wish the rest of the world would get with the program.
    Caity recently posted… Now & ThenMy Profile

  4. I think it’s ridiculous that race is still an issue today and won’t even try to pretend that I know what it’s like to be a minority. Racism is learned and it is disgusting to me that people are teaching these behaviors. I grew up in a rural, white area and those types of beliefs were quite prevalent. It seems like things are slowly changing, but not nearly as much or as quickly as they should.
    Amanda recently posted… Getting into the Right MindsetMy Profile

  5. I am so sorry. Obviously you know I am white, so I have not had to deal with racial issues, and I never gave them much thought, but not for the reason you think: I grew up in Philadelphia where race was never an issue, because every neighborhood I lived in and school I attended (we moved around a lot) was a colorful (pun intended) mix of white, black, Hispanic, Mexican, Asian, and everything in between. It was only after I moved to Lancaster, PA that I was smacked in the face with racism: nearly everyone was white, and those who weren’t were either very aggressive and bully-like, or withdrawn and timid due to the segregation forced on them by the white students. It was awful to witness, and I got in more than my fair share of arguments and physical altercations because of it – I was just so horrified that some of my new friends were treated differently and almost with disdain simply because of the color of their skin.

    As a parent I am doing my best to teach my children that you don’t judge or treat people because of their skin color, hair color or texture, gender, sexuality, religion, etc… we’re all equal, and you judge and treat a person based on how they conduct themselves.

    *hugs* I wish I had known you when I was a child…we would have been friends, and I would have kicked ass on your behalf.

  6. There’s so much racism going around, even from kids, that it’s pretty sad and discouraging. Especially because you know that kids are learning it from the adults around them, which means they are actively engaging in it. I guess people always just have to find ways to make themselves feel better inherently, without wanting to go the extra step of actually DOING something that merits being a better person than they are at the moment. :(
    I’ve had the stupid racism from non-Asian people with all the ching-chong-ling-long bullshit and making fun of my face or accent or being Asian, but I think the worst ones I’ve experienced are from fellow Asians, because majority of East Asians hate Japan and Japanese people. Hahaha. It’s pretty sad. Racism within Asians are sometimes seems so much worse than interracial, which can be pretty easily seen on the internet, when you look at Japanese sites or Korean sites or Chinese sites, and they happen to have a post about each other. So much hate!

  7. That would have been a really difficult time for you. I am glad that you are now someone that is strong and that you did make it. I wish there could have been someone there for you as well.

    If, there is a time when you have children and some things haven’t changed, at least they will have you, because you understand. Maybe, you might also be a voice for someone else that is going through the same thing right now. Giving them hope!
    Kya recently posted… Happy Australia Day from a Kangaroo friendMy Profile

  8. When a child is raised in a community where they’re considered as “minorities”, racism tends to happen between children unless the issue is heavily addressed. I am sorry to hear that Hispanic children were picking on you and your sister as kids. They seriously make it hard for you to accept your own cultural background.

    When I went to elementary school, there were ~3 Asians at the school while the rest of the kids are from Hispanic origins. I was always made fun of because I’m Asian whether the kids are doing squinty eyes, call me “china”, or say ching chong. I just got used to it and didn’t hold any grudges.

    It’s unbelievable that your Asian relatives consider you as ugly! Looks shouldn’t primarily be based on skin color alone. There are the hairdo, smile, eyes, and everything else! Kids always want to do what they can to fit in. Friends played a big role in the every day life back then.

    We all learn from our past experiences. Hopefully we can influence the next generation to respect people regardless of their race and disallow racism.

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