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I have not read all the posts yet but the ones I have gotten through are quite interesting. (And I thought I was the interesting mix...:LOL
)

I am Black american. I would say African, but I have not been to Africa and really do not relate to African culture yet.....maybe some day. I lived as a Black American in this country even though I am "biracial". I also look biracial as well. Many people do not view me as Black american to first look at me, but they do know as soon as they talk to me. Not that I "try" or anything, it just is obvious.

When I look in the mirror that is what I see as well, and I enjoy my culture even though we have many challenges in this country. My favorite rock artist was James Brown because he made the song "I'm Black and I'm Proud".

With this in mind, I have always loved other cultures as well. I even pick up languages of other cultures and practice languages for the heck of it. Some of these cultures clash with black americans, but unfortunately, many do. There is a serious division and misunderstanding among many of the various cultures with blacks and it hurts me so to see this.

I hope in the near future I can form a multicultural alliance with Asian, Hispanic, and European and even Mideastern communities to understand the cross cultural alliance with the black community. We have had many bitter disputes.

I was raised in a city with many cultures: Italian, Irish, German, Hispanic (many variations of Spanish speaking countries), Polish,Asian communities, blacks from other countries, etc., etc. There are so many flowers of people in the world and I hate to miss out.

Due to my loyalty to the black plights in this country it has limited me somewhat by creating suspicion among people who do not trust black americans due to insufficient information.
I am also fascinated with the old religions practiced. However, that is an altogether different issue than race.

I had many advantages by being open, honest and forthright with everybody. I also paid a high price for standing up for justice.
I am not in a profession that advocates race relations.....science is not the area of expertise in race relations....therefore I avoided many areas I should have addressed. However, I still remain open and try not to be discouraged.

Many racial tensions are very deep rooted and I have been involved in them. There is still quite a bit of healing to be done.
 

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Who am I? When I look in the mirror I see me. I see my faults (bags under my eyes, dry skin, eyes a little crooked, teeth a little yellow and so on all the way down to my toes) and I see some nice things (strength, some sort of beauty, intelligence). Describing myself in terms of community, race and culture has always been difficult for me. I am a broken follower of Christ; I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter. I am crunchy, intelligent, passionate. I am an artist and a teacher. I am very active in communities for each of these parts of me.

Racially, bureaucratically I am caucasian, but I've never really understood what this means. Culturally I have never really identified with American whiteness with mixed white roots reaching way back. Only one of my grandparents is American-born and only one of her parents is American-born with the typical haberdashery background. I was raised by a Scot who grew up with a Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. From Nigeria he was uprooted and transplanted into New Orleans in the early '60's. I was also raised by a Welsh-American who is culturally more French than American. Neither of my parents is comfortable with their own American cultural history often disparaging of it, always awkward in it.

My parents straddled two cultural worlds in their childhoods as did I. We were dirt poor, sometimes eating beans for months and spending weeks using the toilets at the library, pool and friends houses. I am well educated by learned parents. I was homeschooled back when it was very uncool and usually meant you were a freaky christian. We were culturally middle class in education and speech but we lived in a very poor, very urban environment. I learned to identify guns from the gunshots and estimate how close they were. I learned to hit the floor when they were too close. And few of my middle class white friends were allowed to play at my house. We were the only white family on our street. I learned to speak essentially in two different languages: one for my middle class white friends and one for my neighborhood friends. And as a child, I was allowed to speak "black" but in junior high that was no longer acceptable to anyone. I was white and should stay in that box. This was exceedingly painful. I didn't understand that rejection. I still struggle with it.

I am fiercely proud of my cultural heritage. I cringe when people comment on ds's "Irish red hair" when he is most definitely Scottish! I loved living in France and connecting with my mother's friends, family and culture. I am eager to speak to other Nigerians to learn about my father's home country and people. I am proud that my white Scottish grandparents were so embraced and respected by the tribe they lived with that they were made a part of the Yoruba family. My grandparents were Yoruba, my father is Yoruba, I am Yoruba. But this also confuses me. Race is so divisive here that I also feel deep shame over this history. I feel that I cannot acknowledge my own African history because that is only viable if your skin is dark brown. I cannot recall my childhood days without being perceived as patronizing and ultimately racist.

Thinking through this has been painful for me, much more so than I thought it would be. The different strands of my cultural heritage have left me feeling wounded, confused and sometimes bitter. I often feel rejected by all the parts of my cultural whole: I am not Scottish, I am not French, I am not Yoruba, I am not middle class, I am not poor. I do not fit any of the boxes but I partially fit them all. I do not know where that leaves me.
 

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I am fair-haired, skinned and eyed. When I do a four directions meditation, I think of the North as where I'm from - looking like this, it's unlikely that many of my foremothers would've emerged from more Southern climes, at least not without nasty sunburns. However, part of the problem with being the dominant "race" is that, assuming we're nothing, no culture, just the norm, we have the luxury and tragedy of losing track of where our people come from. I grew up thinking I had no race or culture, and I admit that I have trouble pointing to what is my culture (other than that which I have chosen) even today. Like fish in the water, who don't know that they are wet…

In college, I learned that being white was different than being nothing, and I began to feel ridiculous about how long it took me to figure it out. One of the people that had a big hand in the raising of me was my maternal grandmother. When my friend gave me lovely tight braids (she called them "braids," my mom called them "corn rows") a few years back, Grandma Wanda said, "What'd you do to your hair, your face isn't black." So it's no surprise, I guess, that it took me far too long to figure out about race. In my last year at Smith College, there were some overtly racist incidents, and so we had a whole-college meeting to discuss race. The women of color who'd sat next to all us white chicks in class every day said, "This is a racist place," and most of the white women (including me) hadn't. Some of them wouldn't believe it, and publicly questioned the truth of the assertions. I kept my mouth shut and came to trust that the women of color knew more about it than me. Just as scary as learning that the college was a racist environment were the white women who broke down, crushed under the burden of their guilt and obliviousness-"Does this mean that I'm a racist!?" It was all too public, too raw. Smith College didn't know what it had gotten itself into. But from there I learned I had some work to do.

My paternal grandfather got interested in geneology in the later years of his life. His last name was "Sutherland," so Scotland is pretty obvious. But his last name is just the last link in a long chain, and his research only goes so far back… I should look at the book he put together about the family. There are some McComases back in there, so we're back in Scotland or Ireland, only Aunt Kitty says that it turns out we weren't really McComases, some woman named Templeton married a McComas, and he adopted her Templeton son, who changed his name… Again, the luxury of losing track. I think of myself as descended from the British Isles, because of "Sutherland" and because I feel the pull of "Celtic spirituality," I'm sure along with many others whose ancestors were German or Jewish or anything you like. My lips are thick and my hair is curly, and my maternal grandmother once said something about possible African heritage back there somewhere, only she used a Southern expression involving the N-word, because "I know I'm not supposed to say those things, but you all know I don't mean anything by it." (How frustrating that people think it's safe to display their racism around me because I look like them. Even more frustrating that I am still trying to find my voice to challenge them.) I know that a couple greats back there I had a Cherokee grandmother, but I have not learned those traditions, so I feel funny, looking like this and claiming that culture/heritage. But then, I'm probably just as Cherokee as I am Celtic, if not more so.

Ultimately, the most common label applied to me by others and myself is "hippy," the culture I claim is primarily feminist culture, my spirituality is nature-based, and my home is the Pacific Northwest. Because I have white skin, blond hair, blue eyes, American society allows me to define my own culture, my own membership; in America I am ascribed nothing because of the color of my skin except entitlement, and I am still learning how to be antiracist in spite of that. Partnered with a man these days, my queer identity is genearlly invisible, in a way race most often cannot be. And I'm still learning how to be an out queer person partnered with a man, even though we're going on 5 years. I am grateful for this forum as a means to contact these issues of race and membership, because I have the stupid luxury of generally ignoring them on a day-to-day basis. I let myself check the White/Caucasian box and call it a day, and I don't even really know what Caucasian means.
 

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Who am I? However glib the answer might sound, first and foremost, I am me.

That of course, leads to an analysis of what makes me.

The answer to that will vary depending on which information I choose to divulge, and the information comes from varying sources, but that's all okay.

But enough of that.

I am Australian. Frome my mother's line, I have a long line of almost total anglo-celtic descent, and I most physically resemble that half of my family. So I have fair skin, and dark eyes and hair.

It's on my father's side of the family that things get *interesting*. For my father is of Australian aboriginal descent, and while we can't be sure of the exact details of his birth, due to an adoption that was at best expedited, and at worst illegal, from what we can piece together, he was a part of the stolen generations. This makes it impossible to be fully sure of just who his parents might be.

This not knowing is possibly harder on my sister then it is on me, for she does resemble my father's side of the family, and is as dark as I am fair. I can't begin to imagine what it would have been like growing up being tormented about the colour of her skin, and having it assumed that she wasn't truly a part of her own family, simply due to the colour of her skin.

My connection to the stolen generation continues into my daughter's family, which of course is mine, with additions. Again, her father was adopted, but statistically, I know that the chances of her father not being a part of the stolen generations is not likely, but we now have no contact with him, so exploring her family history is not something I can do at this time.

But leaving that all behind, I am Kate, a Murri woman, a Scottish woman, an Australian woman.
 

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But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?
I'm a white American living in a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural community.

My ethnicity is French, Acadian, German, Irish, Scottish, and English. I have no ties to any of these countries now and see my self as being American, white, without religion (though raised in a Christian-dominant environment). I think there are many out there like me who saw themselves as "not having a culture" but we do. Dh and I moved to a community where there are many people from all around the world, and it has helped me to see that, in the big picture, my experience is unique, as is everyones. I'm tempted to talk about my culture here, but I'll save that for another exercise if it's addressed.


To answer your question about how people describe me--my neighbors refer to me as being American. On government papers, I mark Caucasian. Sometimes I refer to myself as Anglo-American, or white American. Mostly American.
 

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Originally Posted by Karen Salt View Post

But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

What would happen to your experience of your life, if all the names, origin-stories, history, and information you had collected to clothe yourself in the knowledge of 'who you are'... turned to smoke? How would your life be different?

It's taken me 31 years to establish, finally, that my concept of who I am is a transient thing, due largely to my inability to secure a firm perception of that very information that most here (and in the world at large) take for granted.

I am the product of an Artificial Insemination, 1975, in Montreal Canada. I was born in Calagary to my Irish/Canadian, Catholic-rasied-ex-communicated mom, and her husband. They divorced 2 years later, and I was raised in Oregon, after 4, by my mom and my Jewish-by-descent/Atheist Dad, who adopted my bro & I.

I'm still a Canadian Citizen, with permanent residency in the states (or at least until we move outta country...).

I declared as a Baha'i 3 years ago.

I find it striking that the questions refer to how we perceive ourselves, and how we think we are perceived by the 'world at large', and for me that's tough. I've no familial history to speak of, save vague references to coal-miners and Irish immigrants to New Foundland and Nova Scotia. My mother does not know the nationality of the donor... her case was one of very few, when the procedure first became publically available. I will never know my ethnicity.

I am armed with an array of jokes and redirection from questions re; nationality or race.

I was not made aware of the circumstances around my delivery unto the earth, until I was almost 20. I thought one thing the first 20 years... and then poof! Smoke...

I am only now beginning to realize that my perception of myself is malleable and dependant upon the input of others... and I don't always care much for what others see at first glance. I think others see a short, heavy-set, dark-haired, long-nosed, green-eyed, pale-olive skinned (but winter's over, and we're going to Hawaii in 2 months!) busty woman. I don't look much like my family, tho now that my bro and I have both gained some weight,we look more alike than we ever did as children. I know that white folks see me as darkish-white, "There's something there..." people say as they peer a little closer, at my nose, at the dark around my eyes and in the hollows of my cheeks... "Greek? Middle-Eastern?" I dunno. I think the majority of people would just say white. Sometimes I put "Other" in the box on the form, since I don't know. I'm thinking about trying a different nationality each year, see which one I like best. This year, so far, maybe it's Irish/Greek. I think next year I'm going to say Irish/Czech.

Anyway, as someone who is perceived socially as predominantly white, in a white-dominated society, I don't feel like my view of race, my experience of race in this culture, has much audience, nor should it, according to some.

FWIW, as a meditation guide and spiritually journeying Woman, I feel that I chose this experience, because this is what I needed to learn about. I often joke to friends in my Circle that in a previous incarnation, I was a Jet African Nomad-Shaman; and a chubby white girl in an affluent society came to me in a vision and gave me my path... Now, in my meditations, I see that Shaman self. I am both of them! I am Baha'i, we are all One People.
 

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>>> But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge?

I am a U.S. citizen, middle-aged, white, female, married, able-bodied, well-educated, mother of two young children. I grew up with mixed socio-economic experiences, but these days I'm pretty secure financially and live with that privilege among the others. When I look in the mirror, blue eyes stare back at me.

People always complimented me on those blue eyes when I was growing up. I thought they made me special. But now, several decades down the road, those blue eyes catch me off guard, seem vaguely anachronistic. I spend most of my time with my youngest daughter, who is multiracial. Her skin is brown, her eyes are hazel. I look at her eyes a lot more than my own.

In the last few years I have had to totally rethink my racial/cultural identity. Because of that (and because of a certain self-awareness/honesty that comes with age), I see myself differently these days. I see asymmetries in that mirror I never noticed before. I see that my hair is wavy, not straight. Those old blue eyes still look back at me, but now they blink in mild surprise. They seem strangely ghost-like, both familiar and newly unfamiliar.

>>> If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use?

I think "white" is a fair term for my race identity here in the U.S. I am trying to own that term in the sense that I am trying to be honest about my white privilege and the systems that created and sustain it.

I do not use the term "Caucasian" because I think that its historical origins and meaning/s are at best questionable and outdated, at worst an artifact of European racism. If you're curious, check out the entry in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasian_race.

In terms of my ethnicity, I have ancestors from northern Europe and Scandinavia. Most of my grandparents or great grandparents came to this country late 19th or early 20th century and worked hard to assimilate into Anglo-American culture. They learned the language, and in some cases even switched to more Anglo-sounding names. They were able to assimilate in one generation largely because they were white.

The cultures that they brought with them are mostly lost to my generation, although I suspect fragments survive, even if members of my generation are unaware of these cultural fragments being Swedish or Irish or what-have-you in origin.

In addition to being white, I am also a member of a multiracial family. My daughter is of Caribbean descent, with ancestry that goes back to the British Isles, West Africa, the Iberian penninsula, and (?).

So . . . my short description of my racial identity would be white member of a multiracial family. We are dead serious about embracing our daughter's birth cultures and other cultures/ethnic groups she's likely to identify with (e.g. African American and African diaspora history/culture). We also want to make some headway recovering our European ancestors' lost heritage. Of course actually accomplishing that is much easier said than done, and we are definitely struggling in this area.

>>> When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

I think people perceive me as white, which I am -- I have always lived with white privilege, and always will. That said, I am also a member of a multiracial family, and that adds up to a complex identity.

If people meet me w/o meeting my family, they have no idea that I am highly invested in all kinds of issues from anti-racism to multiculturalism to immigration reform. That I need to think twice about where we vacation, what communities we put our energy into, what schools we choose, and the list goes on.

If people meet me while I'm with my multiracial daughter, they do treat me differently. I suspect if we traveled in certain places we'd meet overt or covert discrimination or worse. Here in our liberal city, people usually don't bat an eyelash at us, but sometimes are overly curious to the point of disrespecting our boundaries.

People can react differently depending on whether I'm alone with my daughter (who, in that context, may appear to be my biological child if one assumes her father is African American), alone with my daughter and son (folks can't figure out if we're one family, if the kids have different dads, or what). If people see all four of us together they usually figure out we're an adoptive family, but not always. Some folks just can't cope until they have an "explanation" for the "mismatch."

People make all kinds of assumptions about me, my husband, and our decision to adopt transracially -- they may, out of ignorance, romanticize adoption on one extreme or vilify it on another. Some assume we are trying to martyr ourselves (ridiculous) or "look cool" (not true) or that we are modern-day colonialists who have misappropriated a child of color (while it's true that the adoption "system" and our racist culture intersect in some ugly and exploitive ways and is in need of reform, having others judge our family is not fair to the complexity of our situation/decisions and those of our daughter's birthparents).
 

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I don't know what my own "original" cultural background is specifically. My ancestors most likely come from western Europe. I have asked my mother, my grandmother, and my great-grandmother but they are not sure what country(ies) our ancestors orginally came from. They believe it is most likely France and/or Germany. Based on our medium skin (we don't burn easily), brown hair, and brown eyes, I am pretty sure we are not Scandanavian or Irish. My ds has these characteristics. My dd is fair and blue-eyed like my dh, who also is not sure which country(ies) his ancestors came from. His father is adopted.

I did not know my biological father until I was 19 and I am not in touch with him. My adoptive father is British and I do identify with that culture somewhat.

Even if I knew the exact countries of origin of my mother's ancestors, that wouldn't tell who I am though! I am Caucasian, from a small rural town. For some reason my family does not have the "accent" of many in that town and I am not sure why, given that I am the first person in my family to move out of that town in at least 100 years (I don't know before that).

In my hometown growing up, almost everyone was white. I remember one African American boy from first grade. I don't know if I remember him because we shared a table and he kissed me in class one day
or because he was the only African American child in my school. Probably both! There was only one Asian child in my elementary school and I don't remember any Hispanic children.

I bring up the previous paragraph because I currently live in the middle of suburbia, in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the United States. What a change from my upbringing! I have to say I have a few Asian friends but all of my other friends are Caucasian. I have not thought much about this until I typed it. So obviously I am anxious to learn more.

Oh, and I am a Christian and lean toward the liberal side but have some conservative beliefs.
 

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Who am I? Well, that is an interesting question. When I look in the mirror I see cocoa brown skin, large dark brown eyes, and almost black sisterlocks. I see a human being. A person who is as individual as blades of grass in a meadow. What box do I check? Well I don't check any, because I can check them all, but when pressed I would check African American. On my mother's side my heritage is Unknown west African, Ethiopian, Choctaw, Blackfoot, East Indian, French, and English. My mother has naturally red/brown hair and eyes that can change from Tiger's eye brown to red in a flash when she's angry (and that's the truth). She has that caramel colored skin and keen features that confuse most people into thinking she's hispanic, Native American, Indian, or Ethiopian. She usually makes her own box and writes in "human". On my father's side, they are Nigerian. He is Yoruba with Arabic and Fulani mixed in for flavor. My family is from Abeokuta in the region of Owu which my maiden name comes from. My ancestors were the rulers of that area and one of the founding families of the Yorubalands in Nigeria when they migrated from Egypt across the continent. My father doesn't look typically West African with his Arab-like nose. His skin is a color I can't even explain. It's beautifully dark and smooth. I love my parents and my heritage. It has shaped so much of who I am today. Growing up was difficult because though I looked like the other black kids, I wasn't like the other black kids. My name is very Yoruba. From the moment my name was spoken and being the only African child in the entire school, I was met with lots of teasing and ignorant questions from kids. I spoke plain American English and in some instances British English which threw off my black American peers. "You talk white", was the usual observation. I didn't fit in. So here I was teetering on being African American and being black American and I chose the former rather than the later. I can't even say how much I tried to have black friends only to be told that I wasn't "black" enough, whatever that meant. I spoke too much like a "white girl". My hair was way too kinky. So I hung out with white and Asian kids mostly. I was a social outcast for being me. I got over it though.

When people look at me they see many different things. When I speak, people usually ask me where I'm from. I have no accent whatsoever so I'm easily mistaken for many different ethnicities from various communities. White people see a black person. Black people see a black person, until I open my mouth and then I get all sorts of questions. Africans see an Ethiopian girl. I can't tell you how many times I've been greeted in Amharic. West Indians see a girl from Guayana or Trinidad or some Caribbean country. When I dance or wear sari, Indians see a dark skinned girl from South India. In the end I'm just me.

Have I seen racism? You bet I did. The difference was that I got it from both ends. White and black people judged me at first by my appearance. White people assumed that I acted a certain way because all they saw was a black girl. Then I opened my mouth and spoke and they realized that the neat little box they put me in didn't apply. Black people did the same thing, but were disappointed that I didn't fit into the box and tried to make me feel bad about it. So I'm definitely coming from a different perspective. I was raised around many different people. My mother's half Japanese best friend, the countless Yoruba or just West African friends and family we hung around, the Mexican family we befriended living in Texas who used to make the BEST tortillas, the Indians at the temple we attend and everything else in between. So culturally I'm an American because my parents have opened up my world to being comfortable with people who don't look like me because to us it just wasn't important. The inside was what counted to my parents and that's what counts to me.
 

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I am new here, and have no children yet. I read the motheringdotcommune forums to learn, to soak in information to prepare for the time when my husband and I can have our first child. We want a big family.

There are, however, quite a few things my husband and I need to take care of before we start trying to conceive. One of these things is learning how to control our tempers. The other…is race.

I've never written about race before. I've struggled with the concept of race all my life, but I've always pushed it to the back of my mind. I've made jokes about it. My husband and I have pet names for many races, and though I can make all the promises in the world that we do it in a light-hearted manner, I'm almost certain the race we are teasing at the time would not be amused.

My husband is the "Paddy" and I am the "Yank". We poke fun at each other, and say terrible things about each other's biological father, or lack thereof to be more precise. We are so used to the teasing and the taunting, that we don't even stop to think that this probably isn't healthy. It's definitely something we don't want our children to witness. But it's just so ingrained in the both of us, although we are from two completely different nations, and old habits die hard.

When I look at myself in the mirror…who do I see looking back at me? A short, 5'1" girl with big breasts and hips. I see big, dark eyes and full lips. Big lips for a white girl like me. A semi-wide nose, large nostrils. Small ears and high cheekbones. Medium/light (depending on the season) brown hair. It's soft. I've never dyed it. On the government forms, I check the box "caucasion" and long so much to check "other".

My mama is a mixture of a little bit of everything-French Canadian, German, and Native American on her mother's side, Irish and Scottish on her father's side. Mama was born and raised in the projects in Providence, RI. She went to a school filled with black kids, white kids, Hispanic kids, Asian kids, and all other sorts of kids. She had friends from every race and religion, but she was poor as dirt and insecure about herself…she lost contact with most of her friends when I was born.

My biological father is half Portuguese. His father was born and raised in Portugal, moved to America when he was an adult, and met some white lady who he later married. I don't know where her family is from, but I do know she had a regular Midwestern American accent. My father was young when my mom became pregnant with me, and then with my brother three years later. She was young, too. She decided to grow up and raise her children; he decided to not to.

My mom left him when my brother was still an infant. She went to live with my Aunty Donna who lived in a trashy, rundown apartment building. Downstairs lived a short, but cute and seemingly friendly Puerto Rican guy named Eddie. After taking my mom out on a few dates and promising her the world, she took her two kids and moved in with him. It didn't take long for his temper to reveal itself, but by this time, my mom felt completely trapped. She had two tiny kids and no money. She felt she had no choice but to stay with him. He abused all three of us, both physically and mentally. My little brother and I were constantly called "portuhgee bastards", but at the time, we had no idea what that meant.

I first started understanding racism when I was about five years old. My nana (Irish/Scottish great grandmother) hated Eddie with a vengeance. She called him a "**** mother f*****" and begged my mom to leave him. (Around this time, my Nana's daughter was married to an Italian guy who was beating the crap out of her…Nana often called him a "wap mother f*****". In fact, Nana had a bad name for any race that she didn't like…except for the Irish, of course.) I had no idea what a "****" was, but I somehow knew it had something to do with the fact that Dad's skin was darker than ours.

When I was eight, my biological father threatened my mom with a nasty custody battle that could have potentially ended in him getting my little brother and I for whole summers at a time. At the same time, the abuse she was getting from our "Dad" (Eddie) was getting worse. Mama took my brother and I and fled to Florida to live with her mom, who had previously retired there. About a month later, Eddie followed.

Florida was completely different than Rhode Island. There were about three black kids in my elementary school, and no Hispanic kids. It was strange to me, but oh did I love on the black kids. Somehow I think they reminded me of home, of Rhode Island, and I befriended them quickly.

I don't think I was ready for Middle School. The school was in a poor town about half an hour from where I lived. Contrary to the elementary school I went to, this new school was filled with black, white, and Hispanic kids. I felt like I was back home again! Only this time, it was different. It was hard to make friends with the black and Hispanic kids…they seemed unsure of me. I got called "white milk" and "vanilla" a lot, but I didn't care. I wanted their friendship. I wanted to belong somewhere. I had a few close white friends, too, but I was so in love with the black culture that I often fantasized about being adopted by a black family. I wanted so much to be accepted by them, for them to see me differently than the rest of the white kids, but no matter how hard I tried to fit in, I was usually seen as simply "Missy, that crazy white girl."

When I was 13, I fell head over heels in love with a black boy named Kevin. He was tall and thin, he played basketball and had a little bit of stubble on his chin. We wrote love notes back and forth to each other, and I drew a heart around his face in my yearbook. I would sit next to him at pep rallies and just breathe. He smelled like soap and baby powder. I was truly enchanted by him. Everyone knew he was gonna ask me to be his girlfriend soon…and I all of a sudden had lots of black friends. I was happy. My mom knew about it, and said I was too young for boyfriends, but she'd smile at me when I'd gush to her about Kevin. I was too afraid to tell my Dad…at this point, I didn't know he was really a racist…I didn't understand how he COULD be racist, seeing as he was Puerto Rican and my mom was white, but I remembered how often he used the 'n-word', and so I kept my mouth shut about Kevin.

A while later, I came home from school to a beating from Dad. He was screaming crazy things about black people, calling them awful names, saying stuff that didn't even make sense. Threatened to beat the shit out of me if I ever went out with a black boy, said I'd never be allowed to do anything ever again, said he'd embarrass me in from of my friends, and then threw me into my room by my hair. My diary and my yearbook were open on the floor. There was an "X" on Kevin's face, and underneath it were the words "Big Lips". I sat alone in my room and cried to myself, "But I have big lips, too…"

When Kevin finally wrote me the note asking me to be his girlfriend, I wrote "No.", and everyone was shocked. Kevin gave me a gold bracelet and said that it was supposed to be his first gift to me as his girlfriend. I have the bracelet to this day. My heart was completely broken, as broken as a thirteen-year-old's heart could be.

There were many, many more racist incidents that occurred with my Dad before he finally left when I was sixteen. It seemed like every big crush I got was always on someone I wasn't allowed to date. For the longest time I was only attracted to black guys, then Hispanic guys, then Asian guys. My first real boyfriend was white, but Jewish, and so not even he could escape Dad's racist comments, although miraculously I was somehow allowed to date him.

There was just so much racism all around me. The white kids called the black kids and Hispanic kids derogatory names, the black kids called the white kids and the Hispanic kids derogatory names, the Hispanic kids called the white kids and the black kids derogatory names…I couldn't escape it. Even some of my teachers at school were racist to a point. It made absolutely no sense to me.

And where did I fit into all of this? Well, nobody really knew what to make of me. My skin was light, but my eyes were dark. My features seemed latin-ish. My last name was blatantly Portuguese, and nobody could pronounce it correctly. To Dad, I was just the "portuhgee b****". In fact, I'm pretty sure those were the last words he said to me before he moved out.

When I was nineteen, I knew I had to get away. I had to leave this world of bigotry and racism and hate. I moved to Scotland to attend Aberdeen University as a study-abroad student, and my life changed forever. I met people from all over the world, races of people that I didn't even know existed. Beautiful, wonderful, diverse people. Now this is not to say that racism didn't exist there…it did. But going to Scotland and meeting the world head-on caused me to begin a healing phase in my life. I had fought with myself for so long…trying to figure out what color I was, fighting with myself to identify in a group, any group. Finally, I realized that I just didn't have to identify as white, black, Hispanic, or Asian, because no matter what heritage I had in my bloodlines, to everyone overseas, I was simply "American."

I met my Irish husband while I was visiting Ireland during spring break. His huge Catholic family immediately accepted me as one of their own, although as I said earlier, I'm always identified as "the yank". That's ok, though, I don't mind. For now I'm just content being accepted. I still have a lot to work though in my mind, a lot to process. My husband and I need to work together to eradicate any traces of racism left in our lives before we begin to have children. But we're getting there; it's just gonna take some time.
 

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How interesting its been to read through these replies. I started to think, wow, I'm boring.
But I'll give it a shot.

Quote:
But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself? When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

I am the me I never thought I'd be. I imagined, as a child, someone so different....not this woman, this struggle, this life.

Physically I see a 33 year old woman, pregnant again, bulging belly. I see a natural red head, fair skinned, dark eyed, freckled. Not beautiful by America's standards, but not ugly. I see plain old white bred, not feeling much connection to the Chezch, German, Irish blood lines I guess I have. I see "lost in American".

I see a strong woman, weathered by poor life choices and their consequences. I see a sad woman, a lonely woman even surrounded by all these children, a mother of six, soon to be seven. A single mother, not by choice, but by circumstance. I see a woman who has been effected by the murder of a partner, the imprisonment of the childrens father, and the outcasting of a family. But I also see a strong independent homebirthing mama. A woman who supports her children by working on cars and baking cakes.

I see the faded white mother of black/biracial children, left out and left behind. I see a woman who doesn't fit anywhere really but gets by seeing her children fit in their community happily! I see myself sort of left behind by the white community and picked up, mostly reluctantly and very cautiously, by the black community.

I see me and sometimes, I am not so sure I like me.
 

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It's funny, I don't actually define myself by a race. It's never been something I actually thought about before. Maybe that's because I'm white, and it's not really been a huge issue for me. I identify myself as Canadian primarily, but check the box that says white/caucasian. I am a first generation Canadian, and proud of it!

Other people/institutions would identify me as white/caucasian. It seems to be a general consensus that white = no discernable culture/heritage. I remember very distinctly being 17 years old in a French language program. We had a multi-cultural night, and students of visible minorities and those with non-English last names were asked to present something from their culture. I had an English last name, so I wasn't asked to share anything. Does that mean I don't have a culture/heritage worth celebrating at multi-cultural celebrations or was it just a harmless oversight? I don't really know the answer to that, but I do remember it not feeling right to me somehow, and yet I said nothing about it.
 

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I'm Spaniard, well I was born and raised in Alicante, Valencia, I never knew my biological dad, I was raised with my stepfather, that I call my biological father, I was raised thinking that I was 1/2 Spaniard 1/2 Jordanian, until my mother told me that, my father is Basque, so that makes me 100% Spaniard.
I don't know if I'm caucasian, becuase I don't feel caucasian and I don't look caucasian, becuase of my appearance I was called a Mora(Moor), but I'm Spaniard and spaniards are suppose to be Caucasian or I'm a Latin.
I'm short just standing 5'2 1/2 with olive skin, curly dark hair and hazel eyes, I'm thin, I've always been, I just weight 95 lbs, your stereotypical, Mediterranean girl, I'm called, well, that what I am, I guess.
I'm called Italian in my own country, I'm called Portuguese in Italy, I'm called Brazilian in Portugal, I'm called Mexican in America, and I'm called Gachupina in Mexico(that's how I've been refered to, they never think I'm Spaniard, just in Mexico and becuase of the way I speak)

Well, I grew up middle class, the oldest of 5 siblings, I have sister(born June 16,1994) a younger brother(born September 1, 1997) a sister(December 14, 1999) and the surprise baby my youngest brother(January 15, 2001) and actually they're my half siblings, as I said before I never knew my father, but I consider them my all blood siblings.

Back to race of course, I married, a Nordic, totally, of Danish and Swedish ancestry, born in Denmark, raised in Argentina(ages 2-11) Sweden(11-18) and America, My daughters, look mixed, they have olive skin, platinium blonde hair(that DH used to have) and green piercing eyes, many people think, I dye their hair, because they say "They have dark skin, they can't have that hair" and things like that. My last name is Arenas, spaniard no doubt, my DH's surname is Rasmussen, again, Dane no doubt. Strange mixture of names some say.
In Denmark I get compliments about how pretty I look all the time, I think they just say that, becuase I'm different from them.
So that's me, this workshop seem so good, I can't wait for more.

I just want to add, this:
Today I was looking at myself in the mirror and I saw.
I small petite girl, young looking as being estimated with 17 to 19 years even though I'm actually 23 years old, with long and dark curly hair, hazelish/greenish eyes, some minor bags under my eyes, full lips, a small but very stylized nose, and then I realized that I'm not the ugliest kid and woman that I thought I was years before, I look at my body, I have small breasts, flat belly due to a lot of dancing and exercise since I was very young, I love my body, I've never liked it so much before, I see a woman that is happy, very happy, with a loving husband and 3 beautiful girls, including my step daughter.
But then I look at myself, a Gitana, simply that, I was born inside the Gypsie community and Spain as my ancestors immigrated to Spain thousands years ago and have remained here, I was raised out the Gypsie community, but my grandmother thought me somethings about it, I also see the little girl that used to go out in weekends with her cousins to dance so people would give us money, that was the typical life of a middle class child in Spain around the early 90's late 80's
 

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Quote:
But who are you? When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge? If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself?
I am a blonde haired, blue-eyed, midwestern European American woman. My looks have put me into a privileged position and I know this now. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with it and I am not totally at peace with it, but there it is.

I always took for granted that I would be treated with respect, that I would go to college, that I would settle into a comfortable middle-class job and raise a family just as my parents did.

One thing I've realized recently is that although I've worked to get where I am, where I am now is much more a product of what I was born with than what I've done. My race is part of that. Recently I've thought hard about the other parts of my identity too - what it means to be a woman, to be shy and book-smart, to be blonde and thin and cute, and how shy, book-smart people who are not blonde and thin and cute have a rougher go of things than I did. It's not fair. I'm a future science teacher, and I want to see all my students have an equal chance to do whatever they want. Each student needs to believe that he or she is worthy and capable and good. That is a really hard concept to teach.

My culture is midwestern/white and rooted in family. Family traditions, holidays, meals, and gatherings continue to be a huge part of our life even though both my husband and me live hundreds of miles from our families.

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When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?
I think so. In our community, suburban professionals here in the West, there is so little cultural diversity that when you talk about someone you automatically assume they are white unless someone says otherwise or unless their last name is Spanish. Some in my race feel that we don't have a culture or an identity, but we do. It's just that it is so dominant in the community and media that we don't recognize it.
 

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I am JamalColleen.

Gender: I am female. Religion: I am a Covenanter/Reformed Christian.

Culturally: I'm an Adult Third Culture Kid. I didn't grow up in any one place and part of that time was spent outside the continental US. I was the minority then. It didn't matter. We were all kind and in equals in that we all wore the same uniform to school. I didn't have the family connections the others had, but I learned from listening. Once back in the states, my closest friends were black. As an adult, my friends vary of all ethniticities and nationalities. I was called the "N" word by my stepfather simply because I had a southern accent as a child...my father's family is from Georgia and the Carolinas, and I was born in Charleston. I was forced into every speech class imaginable and learned to speak with a "non-accent". As an adult I can pick up several accents depending upon whom I am speaking with. My home is where I choose to live.

I'm a lover of books and culture. Country living close to cities provide me the best of both worlds. I want the ocean and the mountains within reach.

Ethnically: I despise the check your ethniticity box...mine isn't on there. I'm supposedly "caucasian". I believe mankind started in the middle east and all mankind is related...I consider myself "Adamic"


To most ppl...
I'm the white girl named Jamal.
 

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But who are you?
I'm a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend to my family; however, since we live in an age of exteriors, I am a woman of color.

When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you with eyes full of wonder, mystery, and knowledge?
What stares back at me is a survivor. Someone who has learned, directly and indirectly, to take care of herself and her interests.

If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself?
I'm African-American. However, I am a fair-skinned black woman (feel free to add the following terms: high yellow, redbone, shawtey red, whatever). I am a clear blend of ethnicities - Welsh, Irish, African, and Native American. However, that would be in the historical sense since I don't have a Caucasian parent, rather both sides of mixing. I am a former Catholic; though I doubt you can ever really leave Catholicism. Currently, I am leaning towards the Protestant side of Christianity because it has been the most spiritually fulfilling of the two sides.

When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience?
As said before, I am the light-skinned girl, who indirectly through no fault of her own, felt the color complex within her own community and outside of it. I am seen as a non-threat to many whites b/c I come in a taste that's more palatable to them (lighter skin); however, to many in my own community, I am seen as the one on the everlasting pedestal of privilege. Since I'm no threat to the outside world, I can get in without worry. I am the light-skinned girl that, at times, wished she had a white parent, because then my skin tone would have been easier to explain to my darker-skinned sister who I would shout venomously cruel taunts at when she she upsetted me.

Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

Yes, I check African-American or Black b/c that's what I am. I don't feel the need to justify it. I belong to a distinguished group.
 

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Ok. Racially I'm Scotch-Irish. My mom says it's better proper to say "Scottish-Irish decent" but it's shorter and easier my way. (^_^)
That means I'm "white", though I like better "caucasian" because it's more accurate. Even the folks in India are scientifically "caucasian" and when that argument was proven when Indians were fighting for equal rights in America the classification was changed to "white" which they certainly aren't, so no equal rights. So I don't like the term "white" because of that little story! I saw that on National Geographic....

Being labeled "white" is seen as having a certain advantage sometimes. But I don't really see it. In Austin I was a minority in a predominately "black" school so it was hard. I learned never to look someone in the eye, never to point across a room, and never to wear red. Because always I would be punished for my insolence, how dare I act better than them? Cause I'm white??? I never cared for racial differences, not even then. My race was made painfully obvious, I was constantly reminded that I and them are different and can't mix or get along. I desperately wished to be seen as equal to them, to fit in, to be accepted. I wished race would disappear! Here in a small town in the mid-west it's just the opposite. There's a truck that drives around with a KKK flag on the back (I really hate that truck) and black people are treated differently, like they aren't as good as white folks. The black stereo-type is seen as fact, "They all have guns and drugs." I seriously heard a lady say that yesterday!

So to me, race and skin color defines you based on where you are, not solely on the color of your skin. Because where I've been, it's not race=cultural differences and heritage, it's race=social and economic placement. And no matter if it puts you on the top, or the bottom, I think it's wrong.
 

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When you look in the mirror, who stares back at you...?

A tired single student mama, who nevertheless is joyfully optimistic at most times...

I usually note my sagging breasts and my not-quite-trim belly. I note my scars and stretchmarks, my freckles and moles, and those freaky throat / chin hairs that grow inexplicably despite my adamant plucking....

But I also see the muscles in my shoulders and my arms, from carrying my baby; the toning around my lower ribcage and belly button from so many mornings of Yoga; and the strength rippling through my legs from hot sunbaked hikes through hills and craggy leaf-littered trails.

If you had to describe yourself, what community, race, or cultural terms would you use for yourself?

I would say I am a White, Basque / Germanic hippie prairie mama, as yet without a prairie to call home...

I was raised to be extremely proud of my Basque heritage... and I grew into the idea that I could also be proud of how I define myself through my actions ~ loving parenting, political action, education, and community outreach.

My community is all White, and all poverty-stricken. The area I live in is one of the most economically depressed in the United States, and within the apartment complex in which I live, we're some of the poorest of the poor. It's hard not to define ourselves as "Oakies" / "Poor White Trash" / "Trailer Trash." We are the Working Poor, the ones who can work 7 days a week and still not earn enough to pay the bills. The ones without adequate health insurance, who have to sell drugs to get medicine for our children when they're sick. If an Anthropologist were to sit outside some night with us, as all us parents gather around outside and the kids play on the small grassy areas around the complex, they would find us to be a minefield of Weapons of the Weak.

In Orwellian terms, I suppose I could define my community as the Proles.....

When other people or institutions in the community describe you, what racial terms do they give for the complexity of your lived experience? Do you use the same descriptions as others? If not, why do you think there are differences?

While I have had some people ask if I'm Italian, most other people I've spoken with ~ at work and in my community ~ just call me a Raging Hippie Liberal Feminist. Perhaps because I live in a predominately White community, most people here don't use racial terms to define other White folk. The only ones defined by their race are the few minority families; there are two or three Black families, and they're always, without fail, referred to like "You know so-and-so ~~ the Black Guy." The Mexican families are the same, only there is far more scorn directed at them..... and honestly I think they are *the* most hated group around here. There is an incredible amount of anti-immigrant ~ and primarily really anti-Mexican ~ sentiment around here. (Historically of course this is easy to explain: every time in American History that we've had socioeconomic problems, the very first step we take is to blame immigrants for our problems.
: )

I am frequently defined not by my race but by my life choices, experiences, and circumstances; when people talk about me, there is a significant amount of judgment over the fact that I am a young single mama who had her first baby in high school. But I judge myself over that too
so I don't think there are any real differences.
 

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What an interesting excercise. OK, I hope I'm answering the question right.

I am another of mixed herritage. My whole family is pretty new to the united states, my grandparents immigtrated here in the 30's and my mother came here in 1970, right before my birth. My whole life I have gotten the questions "what are you?" or "where are you from". Growing up most people thought I was Mexican or Italian, but I am neither. My mother is scandinavian and my father is Jewish. I'm not sure where exactly his family is from since from looking back at records it seems they were on the run or something for a while, you see them in Germany, then Russia, here and there, but undoubtedly semitic. When I see people from Iran, that is who my dad and aunt, uncle and grandparents look like. It is likely they came from that way, but I don't know from where exactly. When I look at myself, in the mirror like in the question, I see a woman. A strong pretty Jewish woman. I have olive skin, high cheekbones from my mom, dark features, big eyes. Sometimes I don't feel pretty at all, sometimes I take too much notice of the dark circles under my eyes, or the weird hump on my nose.

When I was growing up I got teased alot (what kid didn't though) about how I looked - or about my name/herritage as the kids got older and more sophisticated. I was shunned from the regular white kids and now as an adult since I am put in the white box and seen by most people as just a white person I feel really defensive and uncomfortable about it. I have grown up with a deep resentment towards whites, not as individuals but as the group called "white". And now being told I am white, it gives me all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. My husband called me white the other day and it totally. freaked. me. out! My son is from a native american dad and we were talking about the zillion boxes he could check and then DH said something to him and I heard him say "Kalebh, your mom is white. She's white". It sank my heart. I don't know why. It makes me uncomfortable feeling like other people might think I am one of "them". But that is just wrong. I shouldn't think of them as "them".

People still ask me all the time "what I am". But when it comes down to it I know I am still seen as part of the white group, the majority.
 
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