NO RACE TO CALL HOME
I have no idea what race or culture to identify with.
My blood is mixed. I don’t fit into any one category. I’m Aztec, Spanish, Scottish-Irish, English, German, and little slivers of many more.
It was difficult growing up, not being able to relate to one side. Not being able to deny or fully embrace one or another. I can’t speak Spanish. I don’t feel Irish or German. When I lived in North Dakota and was the only person with a last name like Rodriquez, I was known as “The Mexican.”
Being a mixed blood did nothing to help me find myself as a teenager, either. But as an adult it’s helped me to relate to more cultures and races than I ever thought possible.
I belong nowhere. And everywhere.
I know I’m not the only one.
After a thoughtful pause during a recent conversation with my mom, as she contemplated what else is in my blood, she said, “There’s going to be a little bit of everything in everybody at this point.”
She’s right. It’s rare to find someone of only one race or culture. America and the Americans in it are as much of a mixed blood as I am, yet we have some of the worst cultural, religious, and racial clashes.
Indian and the white man. Black and white. Muslims and Christians. The list goes on. Look at the news. Cultural clashes are among the top headlines.
America has a big opportunity to prove peace can be real, that cultural divides can be conquered. But we’re too busy concentrating on what one side of ourselves we want to identify with most – just as I did as a teenager.
It reminds me of a passage in the Bible my mother pointed out:. “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
Does America not want to stand? Do we not want to accept the truth staring us in the face?
We are all related.
Imagine what America could be if we embraced that. Imagine if the United States was actually united. Imagine the potential to excel for our children — for the mixed-blood child growing inside me now.
Let’s get out of the teenage mentality and grow into adulthood as the people of this country. Let’s admit that each race, culture, religion has done something — many things — wrong, and move on with breaking down the walls that divide us.
Let’s acknowledge, as I had to, that we are no one side. We are all.
by Lauren Mitchell
“Why is it that when I’m around someone different than me, it’s like I’m coming home to a place I’ve never known.
Or when I’m in the city, suddenly I don’t feel so alone.
Dark eyed women, it’s like we share a soul.
We know Life takes it’s toll.
Why does the world keep telling me stop being so serious?
I say Happiness isn’t a way of life, it’s occurrences are rare and curious.
My life is found in pain… Pain I live out everyday.
You deny it, my reality, and make me feel insane.
I feel the eyes of those unseen whose tears flood my soul.
Eyes that never leave mine make me feel anything but whole.
They stare until I can’t move and I’m crippled by the silent screams I hear.
I wake up panting middle of the night paralyzed by moving pictures, starring the minorities in fear.
My prayers lull me back to sleep as I beg God to soothe my racing mind,
The further I walk, the fewer there are to make sense of the new me I’m tryin to find.
This world of white is without air.
I can’t breathe. I can’t speak. I can’t think… they kindly inform me, cause they’re all scare.
Their voices are the white hot hands that push me away… Traitor. Liar. Insane. Who do you think you are?
You run with white horses and you better run right if you wana get far.
What if I don’t want to run?
What If I want to think? To speak?
‘Cause all you do is shun.
Nah. Nah. You don’t belong here.
Your skin is saying one thing but your mind is another, just look in the mirror.
So white girl beat it. You are colorless now.
No black, no white, no nothin. You just a crazy with nowhere to bow.
My child my child, do you think I am black or white or defined by sight?
I see your soul that is the color of the nations as far as my left is from the right.
My God, My God, my sight is blind but my soul, it sees.
People keep tellin’ me white girl can’t see but in this white explosion, I see more than anybody.
I see the dirt and debris flying all around me, consuming my sight;
But they close their eyes and they dodge and deny- they blind by all the white.
But see the debris got in my eyes and blinded me-
Blinded me from the white so I could see.
So now they think I’m a crazy blind white girl living in darkness with nothin but tales to tell.
They think I’m hallucinatin’ and playin’ but all I’m sayin’ is white boy, you the one who bought your own ‘brick cell’.
You got debris hitting you straight in the face you just shot up too hard to feel.
Take the needle outta your arm and open your eyes fo’ real.
White man, white man, you not blind anymore you must confess;
you just choosin’ not to see- not even me cause– I’m colorless.”
Growing up in a very conservative, white, Christian environment, I was very much shielded from modern day racism. After a few years in college, I became involved with our diversity department and started to hear the mortifying stories that I had been blinded from. For many months, I couldn’t write about it until one day, my anger spewed into this poem. My world had gone from all white to very black and I suddenly felt like a foreigner to white people. Dating a black man, I began to wonder should I ever have kids, what I would suddenly have to worry about… and to think so many in America have never known anything else. I am white. I will never begin to understand the pain and anger African American’s face all throughout their lives. But, it is my desire to be never be silent about injustices in this world. And for the record, there are many white men I love, it’s the product of our society. But again, we are society and we must be the change.
by Sherrie Cronin
Some of the events in my novels were inspired by real life occurrences, some came from dreams or daydreams and others are a mélange of stories told to me by others. I suspect this is the case for most writers. A few of my tales, however, happened almost the way I tell them. One such narrative is my hero Lola’s realizing how running the face painting booth at her children’s grade school changed her life.
This is autobiographical. I was raised in a small town filled with only northern Europeans, loved by adults who were at best distrustful of others. Education taught me that tolerance was the way to go. But the mind can conclude what it will; it is harder for the heart, for anyone’s heart, to feel comfortable reaching beyond how one was raised.
It was the south. It was barely two decades after the civil rights movement and it was a world in which most adults of all ethnic groups felt distrust. When confronted with any human who didn’t share my ancestry, I was awkward and nervous. I wanted to do the right thing, but had no clue how to relate to anyone who didn’t look like they could have grown up with me.
My own children went to school in a very different world than mine. They grew up with groups of friends who looked like a junior United Nations delegation. It brought me pride that my own kids were far more oblivious to variety in human appearance than I was. Watching them helped me, at least a little.
Then, by sheer luck, I signed up for the face-painting booth at their school. Turned out I had a bit of an artistic streak and a talent for inventing kid-beloved designs. I found myself holding little black girls on my lap, dressed in the stereotypical frills that I’d been taught to scoff at. I painted rainbows on their arms while they giggled in delight and pretty soon I giggled with them. I remember a little boy whose parents were newly arrived from India wanting the Batman logo on his chin. There was a boy from Vietnam who wanted a pink flower. One little Latina wanted both a heart on her face and a lightning bolt down her arm. As I held these children, touched these children, enjoyed the joy of these children, somewhere along the way a funny thing happened. They went from being those people, to being people. The awkwardness was forgotten.
I discovered that once you make that transition, you don’t go back.
After a couple of years I was in charge of the face painting booth and my ghosts and unicorns made me one of the coolest moms at the school. That was interesting because I’d never been particularly cool at my own grade school but apparently, it was never too late.
That’s when I decided that what the world needed was massive amounts of card tables and millions of gallons of tempera paint. We needed a billion little paint brushes and a ton of old newspapers. I figured that we could send every adult on the planet somewhere else, and have them paint children’s faces for a day. What the hell. We’d do it once a year and everybody would go somewhere different each time.
“We can do this,” I thought. “Give me ten years and adequate resources, and we can do world peace.”
It was joking of course, but only kind of. The truth was that these children — the ones whose ancestors hailed from South Asia, Africa, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia — they managed to teach me to recognize our common humanity as they spoke to me through their love of flowers and ninja turtles. I know that it sounds silly, but sometimes the truth is. As I painted scary snakes and colorful rainbows on their skin, I earned their respect and their smiles and I became a different person. A better one.
Decades have passed now and I am in the process of cleaning out the home I have lived in for years. It’s been a little painful, forcing myself to part with keepsakes as I make my way through attics and closets. Last week I found these — signs for my booth from over the years.
I need to keep them, I thought. This is an important part of me. “
You’ve got to be kidding,” my husband said, looking at my pile of big, dilapidated poster boards. He was right. These did not need to be hauled across the country with us.
“Take a picture of them,” my daughter suggested. Brilliant. Today, a picture is never lost, particularly if you post it to your blog and tell the world: Hey. Look at this. It might seem silly but these aren’t as trivial as they look. They taught me a lesson that has made my life so much richer.
Luckily for our over-stuffed, rented storage area, I don’t need the real posters anymore. I’ve carried their message in my heart for years, which is where it belonged all along.
At the diner’s counter one hopes
to eat in solitude but seeing
my whiteness his bigotry
just had to suckle on my skull.
“You know they’re taking over.”
He motioned toward the cooks in the kitchen.
“Who, who’s taking over?”
“The Mexicans, that’s who!”
“They’re not Mexicans, they’re Hawaiians.”
“Can’t you tell a Mexican from a Hawaiian?”
“That’s what makes it so diabolical,
the Hawaiians cross the border disguised
as Mexicans. Don’t look, don’t look!”
“Yeah and they’re the ones who are
really behind it all.”
He mulled over our conversation
trying to grasp the implications.
“If we’re not careful we’ll all be choking on
Unsure, his meal seemed somehow soured.
“We should really build a fence to keep out