What We Are

By Rygell P. K. Arana

Before my daughter was born, it seemed that the world hated her. Blacks were the targets of police brutality and Asians were the targets of xenophobia due to the Covid-19 virus. My beautiful baby girl is of both races. Many might consider her lucky to have taken after her mother in this politically charged climate. But her complexion does not change the fact that I am her biological father. My mother has shown pictures of my daughter to her coworkers and was always met with the same sentiments: “She can’t be his, she’s too pale/Asian. Not black enough.” And although my mother confided in me these comments in passing conversation, they have stuck with me. They identify the harmful bias that people of color face on a daily basis: that we are not one thing or another rather than what we are.

My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to encounter no negative nuances of interracial dating, and if we had, it was again in passing. Once, walking to lunch, I overheard a homeless man mutter that “he’s too dark for her,” despite being of a lighter complexion myself. The area in which we live is nowhere near the Deep South. Far from it, thank goodness. So we’ve avoided those who wish to do us harm for simply existing. Our families have been large supporters of us. My girlfriend’s father likes me, and my mother adores her. But even  so, those comments were made casually, leisurely to my mother as though they were normal comments to make to a grandmother, proudly displaying her grandchildren.

My heart was temporarily broken when she had told me what her coworkers had said. Just like the man who said I was not so-and-so enough for my girlfriend, the cycle continued. Most of my friends were elated at the fact that my girlfriend and I overstepped the racial barrier into unexplored waters; my mistake was assuming that everyone would be. A raised eyebrow is the last thing a grandmother would expect from her friends and it was the last thing I expected to hear when my mother told me on the car ride to buy my daughter’s stroller.

“Could you send me a picture of you two together, so they would believe me,” my mother asked through text months later.

I sent the picture with a hollow feeling in my chest. She doesn’t need to prove anything, I thought, just like how no other person of color needs to prove themselves to anybody for any reason. But that is the harmful bias we face. We are not many things and we are even fewer things in the eyes of the spiteful. By sharing this story, however, I hope you can realize that you are, in fact, good enough; you are, in fact, the right shade; you are, in fact, worthy of more than a raised eyebrow when reciting your achievements. And it’s okay if people don’t believe you, because the people that matter are those who trust you and not those who don’t.

There’s hate in the world. Plenty of it. And skepticism around every corner. The best we as people of color could do is learn from those who came before and to maybe teach the older generation a thing or two. I’ve since spoken to my mother about why she felt the need to show her coworkers proof and learned that it was all in good humor, with a grain of salt. So, in the end, love won yet again.

Hate may skew what is not, but love shines what we are.

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