“Where are you from? But where are you really from?”
These questions have been burned into my mind. They normally come after I introduce myself, my clearly middle-eastern name. Recently though, it gets asked less upfront, people wait until we’re on friendly terms.
And I always feel like there’s a right or wrong answer, despite there only being one. Being mixed race in a western country with a very ethnic name isn’t always easy. Especially when our society likes to pretend racism isn’t real.
However, 2020 shattered that fragile illusion. Between now and 2020, we have lived in the most socially aware time of our lives. Racism is being called out in all areas of life, microaggressions are being spoken of and people of colour are no longer fearing to use their voices.
Trust me when I tell you that it’s not always easy to do so. Being mixed race has always made me question my ethnic identity. I grew up in a primarily white household: I’m the only person of colour in my immediate family.
No one in my house understood racism because they’d never experienced it. It was a quiet and isolating aspect of my life. Until the world was forced to face the reality of white supremacy and privilege. Something that many people choose to believe is a lie.
Despite an abundance of hateful actions towards POC communities being exposed.
The world marched for George Floyd, and they spoke too. It was like the gag placed over racism had been chewed up and spit out.
Racism flared but not silently: it was called out. People found it uncomfortable because normalised racism is being unravelled. No more raised brows and puckered lips. Now there is support to call someone out for problematic.
And you know what, even I’ve learned. There are so many things I didn’t realise were racist. Absolutely everyone has to face and understand racism now. No matter the colour of your skin. We’re all out here trying to do better and see clearer.
Microaggressions have really been there my whole life. These negative stereotypes and prejudices set up against me because of the colour of my skin.
For too long they were defended: “Oh, it’s just a joke!”, “I don’t think they meant it like that. You’re just sensitive.”, “I’m not racist because don’t see colour.”.
It had me constantly questioning myself. Never sure where or when I could be comfortable, always waiting. Most of the time it was for something that wouldn’t happen. That’s the thing about racism, all it takes is one time for it to happen, and it’ll follow you forever.
And one time is enough.
That’s why the social movements against racism are important. So many POC voices were elevated, educating everyone and I felt elevated too. It reminded me more than anything that I’m not brown and I’m not white either: I’m both.
We are headed into a progressive era. Our future is accepting, is aware and we helped create it. We have marched for BLM, marched for women, and we will march for more.
2020 helped me begin to understand my ethnic identity, but the journey is not over. I don’t know who I am yet because I’m not finished growing, and neither are you.
And that’s okay because we will use our voices to grow into a better future.
Featured image credit: British Vogue