If you’re reading this, you don’t have to confine yourself to a certain box.
I am a half Black/half Filipino boy from the Appalachian part of the state, and I want to grow up to be the best nurse I can be. Growing up with a mixed identity in a place that barely has any diversity to begin with is a struggle like any other. I felt that I wasn’t necessarily cognizant of my mixedness growing up. I am a child out of wedlock. I am a high school accident between an Asian immigrant genius, Mom, and a Black player, Dad. I always joke about how I was a higher class rank in my Mom’s belly than at my own graduation. Our own family had their doubts and reservations about whether we could stay together, let alone make something out of our lives. We were a multicultural family with a low income, and the only people who could understand how two different colors of people could co-exist in a family were us. Nevertheless, we made it through, and eventually became a six-figure household. In 8th grade, I served as the best man at my parents’ wedding and I was told that I was the glue that kept them together. That was one of the few moments as a child I was comfortably mixed.
Growing up a mixed child was a "tug of war" of identity, especially jumping between grandparents of drastically different cultures while my parents worked, and attending a majority white education system throughout my entire life. I realized I was black when Obama ran for office. I was bullied by all my white peers who were just as lost on politics as me, and believed the dirty rhetoric from the election. “You’re not even a Christian.” “You weren’t born here.” I was the only kid of color that hoped to see someone that looked like me in office, especially a mixed man. Yet, I was attacked for it. During that challenging period of my life, I began to eat until I was 5’3” and 220 lb. Puberty saved my body, but those scars were still there.
I began to understand more of my own “black struggle.” I was kicked out of stores for assumed theft or a lack of desire to serve “my kind,” I saw the burning cross of the KKK, I was called “the token black friend,” I got questioned if I stole my Dad’s car, and I got turned down from a date because of the “culture of my family.” I was too Black for the Asian kids and too Asian for the Black kids. To the white kids, I was just that brown boy who was “blessed” by the advantages of “Asian intelligence” and “Black endurance.”
When I got to UVA the week after Aug 11-12, 2017, I wanted to redefine myself as Filipino and discover a part of me I never truly knew. I joined OYFA and just wanted to be Filipino. I wanted to forget about my blackness. During May of my first year I realized that you cannot run from who you are. I was on my way home from my frat, completely sober, and in bright clothes. I saw a girl who looked inebriated on the sidewalk, and I approached to try to see if she was okay. I saw an officer approach us, and I thought he was going to help us. But instead, he yelled at me to get away while I was trying to calmly explain the situation. Then, the pistol came out. I had my hands up, then I walked away. I was still a young, black-passing, “dangerous,” male. In that moment, society reminded me that I cannot cut off parts of myself. That summer I realized that I was tired of having to change my cultural identity so frequently between Black and Asian. I began to take a step back and see the whole photo for what it is.
I am a person of mixed identity who deserves to be celebrated as a whole. I came to the realization that there is beauty and uniqueness in having different identities that are vastly different than what’s around you. You don’t need to fit into a certain box in every environment nor have to sacrifice a part of yourself to “fit in.” I may be mixed culturally and biologically, but at the end of the day, we are all people with our own quirks and personalities that make an individual. Taking a step back and celebrating the many colors that fill your life and make you who you are is what makes everyone a priceless piece of art.
Jaelen G., University of Virginia ‘21
This post is a part of a collaboration installment between IfYoureReadingThis.org and The Mixed Race Student Coalition.
Our two organizations share the a goal of of helping students feel supported in who they are, and and we encourage you to explore their organization.
The Mixed Race Student Coalition serves to increase awareness and appreciation of the culture of people of mixed race and/or ethnicity. The Coalition aims to provide a supportive, academic, social, and understanding community for our members and to advocate on political and demographic issues. MRSC also provides a space for students to be fully themselves - without having to defend different aspects of their identity, which they often feel the need to do in mono-ethnic cultural groups. If you want to learn more about MRSC or want to get involved, feel free to email MRSC_exec@virginia.edu and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.