March 10, 2014

Raised White: Worthy of More. ~ Melissa Horton

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Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

Read Part Three here.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can break our spirit.

The essence of who we are can be dissolved down to the labels that are slapped on our foreheads from childhood; perception, then, of who we can be in this experience is limited to those labels, if we allow them to stay intact.

I am biracial. Mixed. Not like the others.

Each reminder of my ethnic make-up was another nail in the coffin of my potential. The names ate away at my being—I viewed myself as less than those around me. Less of a human being.

But I realized none of the created labels matter. I, as a person, matter. I do not fall into one camp versus another; there are no camps here. We are all living, breathing souls, striving for a better here, a better now—we all want the same thing. Despite whether our beginnings were beautiful and calm or ugly and treacherous, we are all here, now, making of this experience what we can and sharing that with those we deem worthy.

I needed to come to terms with the truth that I, too, was worthy. I have value, regardless of the color of my skin, the way my hair kinks when its humid, or my thick body shape. I am worthy of a healthy relationship with someone who not only respects me for who I am but is emotionally open to me, even when I’m shut down. I am worthy of true friendships that are not wrapped up in the facade of necessity—authentic, strong friendships.

And I am worthy of being at peace.

My fight to understand the term raised white plagued me for 20 some years, with my misguided focus set on blaming someone—anyone—for my discomfort. I had no idea how to fit in to an all-white community, and had equally no desire to do so, even if I was unaware of that truth. I tore myself inside out in an attempt to make sense of every emotion I felt that I could relate back to the color of my skin.

It took time, but I understand now the lessons of complacency and gratitude my white upbringing was meant to teach. Without the heavy burden of confusion surrounding my identity for so long, and wanting like hell to break away from my complicated roots, I would not have been willing to unplug my life in the Midwest and seek out a bigger, more colorful world.

I would also not know gratitude in a meaningful way—at least not this early on in life. I am thankful, above all else, for the experience I had the opportunity to live.

I no longer blame the children I grew up with for the names they called me or the jokes they told at my expense. Racism is not born with us; it is infused through cultural development from a young age. Being surrounded by nothing but cornfields and white households, the entrance of a mutli-racial family had to be a bit shocking. I can no longer blame them for their cruelty, because they truly had no idea the impact they would have on my life.

My hope for each of them is that they were—are—able to experience this world on a grander scale. To see race and quickly move past it, as it does not define who we are.

I no longer blame my adoptive parents for the setting in which they chose to raise us. I was sheltered from other races in that small, sleepy town, but I was also kept safe from the temptations of city life as a youngster. I had opportunities to excel in school, play whatever sport I chose—and most importantly, develop a resilience to the racially charged hate that can exist in the world I so desperately wanted to be a part of. I am grateful they made the sacrifices necessary in order to secure a life for me, and try to live that gratitude daily.

They did the best they could with the resources available, even in that tiny town—my mom will always be the voice of reason; my dad, my quiet strength.

I no longer blame my birth mother for letting me go. In my wildest dreams I cannot fathom how heartbreaking it must have been to make that decision—not only for her life but for mine. She did not abandon me; she gave me the opportunity to have a life unimaginable under the care of a family who had the greatest desire to provide that. She created a living, breathing baby girl, and gave her life by letting her go.

There are no words elegant or powerful enough to express the level of gratitude I have for her decision.

I no longer blame myself for my quarter-life-long identity crisis, because without it, I would still be wondering who I was meant to be. This one beautifully colored body I have been granted has allowed me to get this far in this life, and I can be nothing but grateful from this point forward. For where I have come from and where I have the potential to go.

Raised white doesn’t mean shit to most, and it no longer means everything to me.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

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