Affirmations for Your Ambiguous Identity
One of the most significant things about mixed race folks and transracial adoptees are the ways we racially identify. We may identify any number of ways in a day or in a lifetime. And the point I want to stress is that the identification is our choice. Being mixed race means that we may not look like either of our parents. Depending on phenotype (the physical expression of our genetic makeup) we may look a little, a lot, or not at all like one or the other; our skin color may be similar or completely different from mom or dad. Transracial adoptees may look nothing like their families or be able to blend in. From the time we are small, many people outside of ourselves will be very vocal about who we are and how we should identify. Your mom is black so you're black. We're white and we raised you, so you are white. You're all mixed up, you’re CONFUSED. You don't look Asian. You live in America, so you're not really Colombian. You're not black enough. You're so light, you should just pass and be done with it. We don't see color, why are you even asking about it? We're HUMAN BEINGS. Typically, other people have ideas about how we should identify, and for reasons I'll never understand tend to think that we are entitled to their opinion. So we are flooded with sometimes very unhelpful advice from a young age on who we should be. The funny thing is that sometimes people forget to ask is how we identify. And how we feel is what's really important - we are the ones who ultimately get to decide. Transracial adoptees and mixed race people are likely to have had their racial identity routinely challenged by friends, family, and strangers. So there are sometimes a lot of complex opinions, emotions, and baggage to sift through when thinking through themes of racial identity. In general, identity is typically negotiated in the adolescent and teenage years. To be racially different in a stage where kids typically want to be just like everybody else can be painful and challenging. Sometimes it can take mixed race folks and transracial adoptees longer to negotiate their identities, depending on a number of issues - the family and cultures of origin; whether you had exposure to all cultures that contributed to your heritage; exposure to racism and microaggressions; positive role models of your same mix; phenotype; support system; social adjustment; intersectionality, etc. If identity is not resolved to a comfortable balance, there can be feelings of isolation, depression, trauma, loss, and hopelessness that spread past race and cross into the worldview. It's because of this complexity that I think it's crucial to affirm that any way we choose to identify is right. It's ok to be neither, to be both, sometimes one, sometimes the other. Research shows that well-adjusted mixed race folks have chosen a variety mixed, monoracial, and fluid identities in their journey towards a secure identity. It's up to us to explore and decide. I wish you a fruitful, healing, and enjoyable journey.