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I realized growing up that I was different from the rest of the world. Not because I have a different set of fingerprints or that my social security number was one of kind, but that I physically looked different. When I was 5-years-old and truly started to see a difference in the way I looked, I thought it was AMAZING! I had an insight that no one else had. To give you some background information of where I’m coming from, I have a very diverse heritage. My ethnicity includes black, white, Native American, Puerto Rican, and a bit of Haitian. My dad had red hair and freckles, my mom had the lightest skin a black woman could have (in my 5-year-old opinion), my older two siblings were definitely a lighter shade of brown than I was, and then there was me. Don’t get me started on my white cousins who lived in California. But growing up through the ages of 5 - 10, I saw myself as “lucky” given that I could relate to some many people of color. Then society hit hard, and my innocence was quickly taken away. I was being told through social media that there was a right way to look, and that was not me. Here, let me take you on a journey of why I was born not to fit in.
- So I'm not really adopted, and I want to first start off by saying — I LOVE MY SIBLINGS! But growing up, there were many times when my two older siblings would joke with me, saying that I was adopted. Other than my mom sitting me down when I was younger and explicitly saying to me “You are not adopted,” I questioned whether I was truly their sibling or not. I mean, my skin color was a bit darker than theirs, but I knew I was their sister; their annoying little sister. Even though the phrase was all fun and games, there were times that it made me feel less, like I didn’t belong. Even now at 27, it’s still an ongoing joke. I joke that I can now laugh about. I couldn't do that before, because it made me question my position within our family — WHY? Why didn’t I belong?
You’re Like an Oreo
- I think any black/mixed person who has white friends can attest to this statement. I cannot even recall how many times I have been called an “Oreo;” black on the outside, white on the inside. This phrase started around middle school — I was 12-years-old. Let’s be honest, when someone called me an "Oreo" the first time, I took it as a compliment. First of all, Oreo’s are like extremely tasty AND if you didn’t know, I wasn’t the skinniest person at school.
- But I soon realized it wasn’t a great phrase, because, for the next 4-5 years, the name calling didn’t stop. It was either “Oreo”, “zebra”, and “white chocolate.” What do you do when you’re a 14-year-old girl just trying to fit in? Well, I laughed it off. And because I laughed it off, it gave others the right to continue to call me these names, because they were supposedly funny. I couldn’t be friends with the black kids, because I had white friends and I couldn’t be friends with the white kids, because my skin was black. WHY? Why didn’t I belong?
I Was More of an Obligation than a Choice
- There was a turning point in my life when I had to stop looking at these incidents as jokes or people not knowing what they were doing, but rather me getting picked on for a laugh. Whenever there was a big party with some of my friends, I was invited, but not by choice. I felt as if it was an obligation or a last minute thought. The reason I thought this was, not because I want you to feel sorry for me, but because when someone asked me “Who were my friends in high school?”, I couldn’t really name but maybe 5 people. When I think back to times where I had sleepovers or birthday parties, I just can only remember a few; the few that I was invited to.
- Junior Year Prom - Prom, in and of itself, was a right of passage for most high schoolers in America. Mine was just that, but in a different way. The way we got to prom was by one of my friends driving her SUV, which could hold me & four others comfortably. We had this big plan of going to prom together, leaving together, and then spending the night at another friend's house. Sounded perfect, so I thought. Once we were leaving prom, we all got into my friend's car. As we were driving back to my friend's house, I realized we were going down a familiar street; my street. She pulled right in front of my house and dropped me off. No one said anything, so what was I supposed to do? I just got out of the car and they all drove away. They had their sleepover and I went to bed on my own in my house.
- Senior Year - Senior year should be an exciting time, right? It was exciting for me because I was so pumped to leave and go to university. One tradition we had in our town was senior parties. To sum it up, you have a themed party and invite all of your closest senior friends to come over. I was so excited for my senior party and I was so excited to go to others. Unfortunately, I was only invited to three senior parties and only 12 people showed up for mine. I realized then, I was more of an obligation that people felt too burdened to even oblige and a party not worth going to. WHY? Why didn’t I belong?
- I started off my first year at university with the mentality of “Why try?” Growing up, when I did try, it never ended well for me. I didn’t want to put myself in that position again. So if it was out of my comfort zone, I wouldn’t try. That started off with sororities. I went to a school that was majority white. If I wanted to be in a sorority, I would be the 2% (maybe even less) of black/mixed girls that would rush. I knew my odds were not good, so I didn’t try. I still wanted to be a part of those moments with my friends when they went to date parties, formals, etc, so I would always go over and help them get ready. Even though fraternities had the same things, I was never invited to those either. Did my friends know that my feelings were hurt? No. Why try when I knew I didn’t belong?
I’m Still Trying to Figure it Out
- I don’t have the formula to tell me how to make genuine friendships and how not to feel left out, but I do have a support system. Whether you’re a friend from high school, a friend from university, a family member, or just someone who feels like they were born not to fit in, I just want you to know that I would not take back ANYTHING that happened to me. All of these moments have made me cherish my friends and family members so much more.
- I would not be so accepting of others if those events didn’t happen to me. I know I don’t belong, and that’s okay. Apparently, people like me for not being a cookie cutter person and I am finally okay with that. Yes, there are times when I continue to question why I don’t fit in, but I’ve realized that I have a core group of friends and family members that will always be there.
Why Don’t I Belong?
- Well, I do. Just in a different way that’s not by the color of my skin.