Finding My Place And Voice As A Mixed BIPOC Woman In America
"Share Your Story" submitted by Lee Velvet, 24 years old fashion stylist from Los Angeles, CA, USA
NO to racism part 1 of 12.
For those of you who don’t know, I was adopted at birth. Not just that, but by an all-white family. I don’t talk about that too much and have avoided speaking about it publicly because of my fear of my “blackness” being invalidated. Which has caused me to at times have a weird relationship with that side of myself and my family- like it’s something to be ashamed of. My family is a light in my life and have given me everything, so that’s hard to deal with.
I grew up not knowing for sure if I was even black (though I always identified with it) until a DNA test confirmed it at 18. Talk about an identity crisis. Since starting my journey, I have been invalidated again and again. By friends, strangers, and family. I would even loathe being asked if I had seen a staple black movie or TV show (because I hadn’t seen most) in fear of being teased with getting my black card revoked. Sometimes I still do. For so long, I felt like I couldn’t enter certain black conversations & spaces. Afraid of somehow overstepping, or that I didn’t belong to my community. While feeling alienated in white spaces. Dealing with microaggressions constantly. Always feeling like a commodity or something exotic, having to swat hands away from my Afro at every turn.
I have since jumped head first into embracing and exploring my blackness and my culture. Helping me form my identity, find my people, and embrace my features. Aside from the beauty, vibrancy, resilience, and creativity I’ve come to know and love about black people, it also came with the very real and alarming truths of our history and the reality in which we still live. Causing me to look at my past and come to terms with all the racial biases and prejudice situations I had unknowingly dealt with all my life. Not understanding the root of them but having a feeling that something was off... I had to come out from under a white veil as a black woman... what a concept.
I thought about things like being pulled over with my white friends vs. my black friends and the completely indecent and degrading behavior I had experienced with the latter. Getting stares and whispers in the predominantly white situations I was put in due to my family. White people coming up to compliment my mother on my baby sister who is blonde with big blue eyes while either not giving me a glance or looking me up and down in disapproval. The colorism I experienced in high school, realizing years later the only people I was bullied by in school were other black kids for my hair and features. Then came the understanding of the sad truth; their own self-hatred due to European beauty standards was what they projected upon me. That alone brought me to tears.
I came to terms with the fact that I had a certain privilege because of my skin and my hair but that didn’t stop me from being the token black girl on set. Last to be dressed, no one able to do my hair, and my face left with no makeup for a “natural look” when the other girls' faces were beaten to the Gods. Or being labeled as the angry, crazy black woman when I dare raise my voice too loud or stick up for myself.
The world is trying to bridge the gap right now between black and white. Trying to facilitate pain into progress and healing by dismantling the racial divide this country has thrived on. That’s something I’ve faced my whole life. Navigating my personal guilt & privilege while grappling with how racism and systematic oppression have directly affected me as an African American woman.
This time has brought a lot of triggers, but a lot of healing. I have a voice I’m eager to use! I won’t be complacent out of fear. I love my community. I love my people. I have the chance to help the world bridge that gap and educate others through my unique perspective and experiences. I’m starting to really feel like I’m finding my place and voice as a mixed bipoc in America. & I’m fucking proud of it. I could go on forever, but I think this is a good start.