I work at a church so I’m around kids all the time. Some of the funniest stories I share come from interactions with them. The other day I walked into the school cafeteria to speak with one of the teachers and a few of the younger students noticed my knee brace. When they asked how I hurt myself I told them that I hurt it kicking my arch nemesis in the face last night because he was trying to rob a bank. “Yes,” I told them. “I am a superhero!” As properly skeptical fourth graders, they grilled me about my superpowers. After very unconvincing attempts to tell them that I can fly, I realized that I have the best superpower ever.
Growing up, I knew I would be the world’s best spy. You know, without the fighting and sneaking. I’m terrible at sneaking. I remember for one birthday I insisted on going to a Mexican restaurant to hear the live Mariachi band. When our waiter came to the table, he immediately started speaking to me in Spanish. Luckily for me, this has happened enough that I have picked up basic Spanish. When I told him that I wasn’t Latina he was very shocked. I don’t know why though! I was literally sitting in between my Native American and Black father and my very White, blond haired, blue eyed mother and he still assumed I spoke Spanish. This has always made me laugh and it doesn’t just happen with Latinx people.
Through a set of highly unlikely and unforeseen events, I somehow ended up on a majority Vietnamese dance crew when I was in college. During that time, I was still relaxing my hair and I somehow managed to blend. Aunties assumed I spoke Vietnamese and were very affronted when I didn’t know how to even greet them in Vietnamese.
The same thing happened when I danced with one of my best friends for the Taiwanese New Year’s celebration. Thomas dragged me with him to all of the Taiwanese community events and eventually I was told by one of the uncles, “You look like us, so you should learn Chinese.” I kid you not. I can proudly say that I can now say, “I’m sorry,” “My name is…,” “How are you,” and “Thank you,” in Mandarin.
Try not to be too impressed.
So I told the precocious fourth graders that my superpower was to be able to blend in with all the brown people. Oddly enough, they were more impressed with this than me trying to make up stories of flying or running really fast, which everyone knows is a heinous lie.
This has been both the highlight and the most confusing part of being Mixed for me. I’ve always felt like I was raised without a culture since neither of my parents were particularly interested in family traditions. I grew up reading about other countries and watching the travel channel like other kids watched cartoons or Fresh Prince of Bellaire. Ok, so I did watch a good deal of Fresh Prince of Bellaire too. Because of this, I’ve picked up certain things from my friends like my love of Bollywood movies. I’m still culturally confused and have a lot to work through about where I fit and my own ethnicity, but this is something that for which I’m forever grateful. Being vaguely brown has opened the doors for me to meet so many different kinds of people and explore more about other cultures as someone raised in semi-rural Arkansas might have the opportunity to experience.