Other, by choice.
I am other. Who I am has already been boxed in by four lines and ticked off with two. Every form that I fill out reminds me that I am not easy to understand; that I am not simple. Ever since I was old enough to fill out forms for my mom and myself, I struggled with what to check for “race”. My mom was easy– Asian American. I , on the other hand, fought with race and ethnicity. Was I Asian? Guyanese? When I was younger, I opted to pick one. I used to always identify as Asian, but as I got older I started to realize I was neglecting a large part of my racial identity.
In December of 2015 I attended the Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC) with five other people from my school. I attended this conference hoping to find an affinity space where I would feel a sense of belonging, and in a conference with sixteen-thousand students from all over the country I was desperately hoping to find a particular group that would understand me with empathy, and not sympathy. On the first night of the conference I joined the ‘multi-culti’ affinity group despite my concern about feeling less affirmed due to the majority of black or white identifying students in the group. My first session with the group was an intense reality check. I found myself questioning my place in the world and in the room, once again feeling insecure, rather than secure, because the students were so different from me. This space, where I was supposed to feel a spontaneous and natural connection, was othering me before my very own eyes. How was I supposed to feel affirmed when I felt lost and small, at a conference where the expressed purpose was for people like me to feel empowered?
Being bi-racial was a very interesting way to grow up. I found that many of the cliques that formed in the schools that I attended were usually based around race and ethnicity. I used to struggle a lot with finding a ‘crowd’ that really understood my culture and my dilemmas, but that proved to be impossible. At first I felt quite alone, and like I would never fit in and belong somewhere. What I later realized, was that because I wasn’t confined to one race or ethnicity, I was free to bounce around and meet new people outside of my friend groups. In a sense I was racially liberated. I learned that the friendships that I make are all learning experiences for all of my friends and myself.
The solitary confinement of my race and identity taught me about race and who I was, and who I could be. I am the only one that feels the way I feel. I am one mix that I have never met in real life. Being biracial is to be implicated by two races. Biracial people are everywhere nowadays. The box “other”, represents every person that does not fit the social construct of race. I was put in a box symbolizing something so massive, yet I felt so small. I felt alone, and lost in a deep space that was constantly changing colors. From white to black. From yellow to brown. From one side of the world to the other. Race is no longer something that confuses me. It empowers me. I know that every time I choose “other” on a form I am denying the social construct the power to define me. I have chosen to define who I am, on my own terms. These four lines, which intersect to form perfect ninety degree angles, have become strong walls that I lean on for support. I have built myself a permanent home where will I decorate the walls, and where I define “other”, because that is what I am.