My name is Stephanie. I'm of mixed race, to put it simply...I'm a black person and I'm a white person at the same time. How you ask? It's actually quite simple. It depends on who I'm around. I like to say I'm mildly melanated. Let me tell you a story.
I was born into a white family, not by default, but because I was adopted at birth. My parents lived in Rialto, California and so, that is where I was raised. For my first two years of primary/elementary school I was in classes meant for ESL students, they were primarily Hispanic and Latino. I didn't know any different, so that was normal to me, and became the race I most related to later in life. In the third grade I was switched to classes that better fit my needs as I learned to read and write English before I was in kindergarten thanks to my parents.
Suddenly I was much more aware of how different I was from my peers. You see, the school was primarily black and Hispanic/Latino, and there were a few white kids in the mix. I, on the other hand did not fit into any of these groups. My skin color was closest to the Hispanic/Latino kids, my hair was closer to the black kids, but my eyes were closest to the white kids. I have green eyes, curly coarse hair, that at the time was unfashioned into an afro, and my skin a caramel/tan. I'm much lighter now as I try to stay out of the sun to avoid skin problems, but I digress.
Third grade was when the teasing started and by 5th grade it was unbearable. My first dealings with racism were from black kids who couldn't understand how I could have green eyes and a light brown afro. Little did I know things were going to get worse.
I moved to Des Moines, Iowa, when I was thirteen. In my middle school we could count the amount of black kids on two hands...maybe. Suddenly I went from not being black enough to black. I didn't know what to do with myself. I straightened my hair with relaxers, which I had tried to do when I was in elementary, but my white mother didn't want me to lose all my curls. (At the time it pissed me off, but I now respect her decision to not allow me to erase my identity.)
Like most teenagers I struggled with my identity throughout high school, and to add insult to injury I realized I was part of the LGBTQ community as well. I struggled with that realization as I joined the military when I was 17 and still in high school during the era of Don't Ask Don't Tell. Now, in high school there were groups of kids made up of mostly the same race and I, being mixed bounced between one group to the other. Both groups treating me differently based on their perception of my skin. Many would say that they didn't see color, I will say, that is not true. People can be racist without realizing it due to the way they were raised, and what race the majority of people are around them. Assumptions are made. Perceptions are defined before there's a chance to really get to know someone.
I learned more about these perceptions and how people related to one another when I joined the Military. During the time I grew up, being mixed was not as common as it is now. I learned that there were people and places that didn't understand the mixing of races, and I was treated as such. I traveled the country and met new ideals wherever I went from people of all different backgrounds. Some would say I looked exotic, and others would turn up their nose at the fact a white person slept with a black person. Come to find out once I found my birth mother, I was a second generation mix.
After finding my birth mother a lot of things changed as far as how I felt about myself. I could define myself. I could answer the questions people had for me as far as what I was made of. I was asked my whole life what I was mixed with, even by strangers. All I knew at the time was black and white, but I had no details for myself, or the nosey people who didn't even ask my name before prying into my racial identity.
This was the time I was able to look more into myself and find that I was not bisexual as I had previously thought, but that I identified as a lesbian. My early twenties were a whirlwind of self discovery, and I had to balance what I knew and who I was, with the rules of the Military. Thankfully the rules of the Military have changed and I became able to be myself and not have to hide my sexuality anymore.
It is important I talk about both my mixed race and my sexuality because they tie into one another as far as my identity, confidence, and how I'm perceived as a person. Both have their challenges. These days however I'm able to articulate who I am, and not care as much what other people think. In fact, I learned to love others no matter what they thought or how they acted towards me.
I'm not one to fight fire with fire. I prefer to combat negativity with love. I enjoy spreading love, I enjoy forgiving people, and I enjoy hugging people when I should want to put them in their place. Life had become much easier once I learned to love, and I love myself even more no matter what anyone has to say about my race or my sexuality. With that being said I'm frustrated, and I'm angry that the world and the United States especially, still has so much hate spreading its ugly viral nastiness among us.
I'm tired of seeing blacks mistreated, killed, thrown in jail without a fair trial and I'm sick of whites acting like it's not happening. I'm sick of racism against any race. I'm overwhelmed from being stuck in the middle of all of this mess. To some I'm black enough to call the N word, to others I'm white enough for racist jokes to be told. Sometimes I get white privilege due to my light skin and other times I get blatant racism due to my mildly melanated skin. It's exhausting. Above all, I share love. That is how I cope. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.
I will continue to show everyone I can love no matter how they treat me. I will not allow people to walk all over me, but I will allow them forgiveness and love. Those that hurt others need love, they lack compassion and need to be taught how to love by showing them love. I can only hope more people will show love to one another and erase the hate in this world. Will you join me?
Written by Stephanie Jiles