Growing Up In a Multi-Racial Household

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Growing Up in a Multi-Racial Household

Panel 1

[Caption] I am half Indian, half white.

Panel 2

[Image] Three people, posed in a family photo. The man is dark-skinned, and the woman and boy are white-skinned. The boy has dark hair, and the woman has light hair.

[Caption] It’s a different experience forming a personal identity growing up mixed. I feel very similar to my dad, but because of the way I look, no one outside of my family ever thinks so.

Panel 3

[Image] A light-haired boy smiling and pointing.

[Caption] When I was in junior high my friend confessed to me:

Blond boy: That’s your dad?!

Panel 4

[Image] Blond boy, in profile.

Blond boy: I thought he was just some guy living in your house!

Panel 5

[Image] Blond boy, in closeup, facing the reader with his open hand by his face.

Blond boy: Were you adopted?

Panel 6

[Image] The father from the photo, dressed as a superhero, posed with hands on hips and one foot up on a rock.

[Caption] Most kids saw their fathers as the stereotypical super-man father.

Panel 7

[Image] The boy from the photo in front of a mirror, looking down at his hands. He is dressed in the superhero outfit from the previous panel, but it is too big and hangs off him. He looks sad.

[Caption] It can be very alienating when you identify with someone so closely but you look very different.

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Telling someone that I am half-Indian always guarantees an interesting response. It often takes some clarification: “yes, from India”, “yes, my father is actually Indian, as in brown coloured skin”, and “I couldn’t tell you why my genetics are like this, but yes, I know that I am white.”

In any case, the more notable experiences happened mostly as I was growing up. It is a different experience forming a personal identity when you come from a mixed background. For one, while most kids saw their fathers as the stereotypical super-man who looks a certain way, dresses a certain way, comes to career day, and coaches sports in a fairly uniform manner, it was always funny for me to get comments from my friends saying “that’s your dad?!”

When I was in junior high I had a friend over to work on a project, and when he saw my Dad he was so confused that he confessed to me, “I thought that was just some guy living in your house”. When I told him that it was my Dad he asked, “were you adopted?”

In many ways I feel very similar to my parents, but people think I am different because of the way I look. I believe myself to be quite similar to my father in personality, but no one outside of my family ever says to me “you’re just like your father”. It can feel alienating when you identify with someone so closely but to whom you look very different.

Most often I get the response of “but you don’t look brown at all”. I’ve heard this response so many times that I almost wait for it. It does, sometimes, happen that people say, “I can kind of see it”, but more often than not people will think I’m playing around with them until I assure them that I am, in fact, half-Indian. I’ve become used to these responses over the years. It is strange to people that I have a Caucasian complexion but am actually 50% of Indian heritage.

The amazing thing about my circumstance, however, is that it gives me a chance to connect with two completely different cultures, and it helps me engage people who often have a closed mind on inter-racial issues, and show them that there is no harm in mixing cultures.


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1 response to “Growing Up In a Multi-Racial Household”

  1. Kay says: |
    December 18, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I am half Mexican-American, and half Anglo/white. I understand your post completely. I identify most closely with my Hispanic side of the family, but my skin, hair and eye color are all from the white side. I have been teased about identifying myself as Hispanic all of my life, but it is who I am. I married a white man, and have a child who is a quarter Mexican-American. I’m teaching him the richness of his Hispanic heritage, and using some Spanish at home, in the hopes he grows up more bilingual than I am. My mother is from the era of “assimilation” where Hispanics who succeeded in America dropped their accents, spoke English, etc., and given that my father did not speak Spanish, I grew up not fluent in the language. I’m trying to change that, little by little. But I am fluent in the way my Hispanic family celebrates life, our customs, our traditions, and I’m passing that on to my son. And we are also the typical white family, too. I mix the cultures just as my mother did when I was growing up. At Thanksgiving, we ate barbacoa tacos for breakfast, and roast turkey for dinner. I had a choice of grabbing a homemade flour tortilla or a slice of white bread to make a sandwich with, when I was a kid. It’s all good. I’m not brown like my mother, but I’m not less Hispanic because of my skin tone. I’m the same skin tone, eye color and hair color as my father. I’m a wonderful mashup of two cultures.

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