This week during peer reviews, both of my peers wondered about more personal experiences I’ve had with the healing of my identity. While it is in seeing myself reflected in celebrities who have the ability to speak to a larger audience, it is also in the reflection of myself within a more local community.
By now, I have talked with many people of multiracial or multiethnic descent, and every conversation has brought me closer to a sense of healing. By relating with others, sharing similar experiences, knowing that I’m not alone, and being able to vocalize my own multiethnic experience to people who will understand and listen – this has all been healing. It’s as if my identities are not only knitting back together to create my whole self, they’re also linking up with other people and their stories.
In the past year, I’ve felt a deep jealousy of people who have large families and communities, where they can come together and support each other no matter what, where familial ties are stronger than the crushing weight of shame. And I’m realizing that my desire for a community like that has come from the lack of belonging that is a side effect of being multiethnic. Searching for a place to belong has become a difficult and confusing journey throughout my life so far, and it was only after coming to college that I realized why communities and social groups are so important, why I crave them so much: because they heal. They stick through hardships together no matter what, a safety net. They see each other. They understand each other just by sharing a glance, an unspoken language that is often stronger than words.
If I had to share one memory of healing, it would be with the few people who helped start my small community. My two best friends are also multiethnic, we’ve all grown up together, and our bond is like those of sisters. Race was never really in our dialogue until recently though. And there was this one memory of lying next to my best friend in her bed. We were discussing racial politics and social justice after attending a protest in downtown Oakland this summer. We’d walked around the entirety of Lake Merritt, music resounding loudly, about one hundred people walking together. It was a response to the deaths in Charlottesville. And most of the people marching were white.
The conversation we had that night was triggered by an interaction my best friend had with a white male, and our words spiraled early into the morning. Lying in the comfort of darkness and blankets, she confided in me some of her deepest fears and feelings. With humility and honesty, she spoke about her experience being a multiracial person who has not yet come to terms with her identity, and how it interacts with our politically-charged society. As she spoke, she mentioned feelings of shame and conflict, fear and confusion. Although her’s is not the same experience as mine, these were still feelings I relate with well. And it took bravery to be able to share them.
By listening to someone open up an abyss of personal insecurity and vulnerability, especially around race, was healing. Especially someone I’ve known all my life, who I’m still getting to know. She set the example that to share is to connect, to share is to heal, and to connect is to heal. It showed me the humanness that runs alongside the racial blood in our veins. It showed me the pain that many multiethnic people experience, an ache that fluctuates, but exists persistently in the core of our bodies. I can’t speak for everyone in the multiracial/ethnic community. But each person I’ve talked to about their multiethnicity so far has expressed this ache to some degree. And like the communities I’ve longed so desperately for, I feel like I’m finally starting to see myself reflected in one, (a puddle expanding into an ocean).