Slices of Life 19: Catching Up with a Story about Race

Have you ever played catch up?  One of those times when you totally lose track of dates and times, only to be jarred back into reality by the responsibilities of life?  I am only now again becoming aware of the days of the week after a magical visit to my district from Jason Reynolds.  Two days of driving around one of the best YA writers around and four days of catching up on the emails that piled up while I was driving–that’s my excuse for posting Day #19 on Day #20 and I’m sticking to it.

Listening to Jason talk to our middle schoolers about his youth, has me thinking about my own.  I’m the eldest child of two very young parents.  My mom was 17 and my dad was 19 when I was born.  Maybe the fact that they were such young parents and were busy making ends meet are the reasons they didn’t have much time to talk race with us as kids.   If you knew my dad, you would understand that sometimes he becomes that silent type who doesn’t talk about much unless he’s giving you instructions on how to fix something–including your attitude.  Then, he talks for days.

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My Mom and Me

As a kid, and as an adult, I need to talk about race.  I think it’s because I feel like an absolute faker (to steal a word from my 14 year old)  when it comes to race.  Even now, when someone asks me about my own race, I answer in a round about way with “My mom’s Houma Indian and my dad’s Filipino.”  But the truth is, I still walk away asking myself But what are you, Anna?  (Having someone else ask me this question would be the topic of a whole new blog since I do think it’s the rudest question coming from another person, but that’s for another day.)

Race in high school was a mess of a subject for me.  Confusing.  Shameful.  It was the topic I avoided talking about.  I once had a friend I admired at the time turn to me and say “because you’re white enough” in answer to a query about why I was accepted into our peer group and another friend wasn’t.  Not yet confident enough to answer this “friend” or to walk away from my peer group, I sat with the words weighing uncomfortably on my shoulders.  I still can’t tell you what shamed me more: being “white enough” or not being brave enough to stand up for myself and my friend.

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My Filipino Grandparents and My Siblings

About a year ago, I became familiar with The Hapa Project by artist Kip Fulbeck.  It celebrates multiracial identity using a variety of mediums, including a book, photograph exhibits, and community presentations.  I had found the answer to my race question and I reveled in the fact that I could now be more comfortable with me–for a whole 2 months. Until NPR came out with the article Who Gets to Be Hapa?  Then things got muddled again.

Today the truth is that I am pretty comfortable with the discomfort of it all.  Maybe I have learned that Anna falls somewhere on a continuum of Houma Indian to Filipina, and I am pretty okay when I fall closer to one, closer to the other, or smack dab in the middle.

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