To Immigrant Children Of Color Who Grew Up Wanting To Be White
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To Immigrant Children Of Color Who Grew Up Wanting To Be White

Don't pick one. Choose both.

To Immigrant Children Of Color Who Grew Up Wanting To Be White
Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash

Growing up not white in a white-dominated world is not easy, especially if you're young.

I remember being seven years old, I was instructed to draw self-portraits in art class and I drew "myself" as a blonde-haired, pale-skinned, blue-eyed little girl.

In reality, I was a little girl but I was none of those other things. The significance of little moments like these never occurred to me until over a decade later when the self-hatred had already built up. Here are the things I wish someone had told me. To anyone who has gone through this or is going through this, I hope you can learn to love yourself one day.

White is not synonymous with beautiful.

It's confusing growing up in a world where white privilege is embedded within language, like how the word "fair" equates to "white." I want you to know that all the things that you think make you ugly are exactly the things that make you beautiful. For example, perhaps your skin makes stretch marks too prominent.

And yet, your stretch marks show the resilience of your body: the way it repairs itself and sustains you. The human body is a work of art and your skin color only enhances it.

Of course, pale skin is not just a Western ideal.

After all, skin bleaching creams are popular all over the world. I know my own mother still has a stash of Fair & Lovely in her drawer and so do her sisters back in my home country. But it becomes more than just about pigment when you live among these people who have never felt discomfort in their skin, when you have to work twice as hard to achieve half as much. It turns into privilege, status, class, superiority, the list goes on.

Ultimately, white is beautiful but so is brown and black and "yellow" and every other color and mixture. And if you've been conditioned to believe any different, you need to change that mindset.

"You got this because of your race."

I have been told time and time again that the reason I got into certain colleges or scholarships or awards is because of my race. You will encounter so many people who like to bring up topics like quotas or Affirmative Action to belittle your intelligence and struggles but these are not valid points.

We are all born with certain privileges and deprived of others. Certainly, there are kids out there who would not have gotten into a college without Affirmative Action.

There are also kids who can afford private tutors and kids who have to manage work and school in order to support their family and kids who are legacies and kids with mental illnesses. The phrase "life is unfair" does not only apply when things don't go your way. So, don't ever doubt that you got where you got because you fit a certain minority checklist and not because of your intelligence.

Your culture is not holding you back, it's aiding your growth.

Do not be scared to be different.

I used to be ashamed of my mother who prefers dressing traditional garments rather than "normal" American garments like pants or dresses. She does not feel comfortable talking to her children in English when they are perfectly capable of speaking in the native tongue, even in public. I hated going out with her. I hated the stares. I know I am not alone in feeling like this. But, why should we feel that way?

It feels so unfair when you grow up in America, speak fluent English, go to school, eat American food, but you can never be like everyone else. Everyone will always see you the way you see you when you stand in front of a mirror: foreign. But being a foreigner is not something to reject.

Isn't it amazing that you get to be a part of not one but two histories? Through your background, you can live the lives of your parents, grandparents, ancestors. In the present, you get to create your future. Love your culture. Learn about it, learn the language and songs and stories.

Let both of these worlds shape you into becoming an amazing person. You don't have to choose one, you can choose both. So choose both.

In conclusion.

Rise above those who tell you you are wrong for being who you were born as. Refuse assimilation. Fight back not with violence but with hard work and success. Use your potential. Above all else, choose love and choose yourself.

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