Power of One
As a person of color who is white passing, my identity is a complex topic for me. Even as early as age 12, I was brought up to think that appearing white was a benefit that should be taken advantage of—something my heart has never accepted. Does that mean I can call myself a Latina? I mean, my family is Mexican, whether they accepted that fact or not.
“Don’t get me wrong,
I thrived living in the
home where Black
culture was present
— but it also added to
the delay in finding my
own cultural identity.”
I entered foster care at twelve and was placed into a home of an African American family. I recall the first time my foster mom announced she was making tacos; my siblings and I laughed amongst ourselves because we were used to more ‘traditional’ and ‘authentic’ Mexican tacos. Not only were we initially Americanized in our upbringing, but now we were getting a completely different experience of Americanization. Don’t get me wrong, I thrived living in the home where Black culture was present — but it also added to the delay in finding my own cultural identity. I moved out of my foster home when I was 17 and really struggled with the adjustment. I was accustomed to Black culture, but it felt wrong in application in my life because I myself am not Black. So now I’m back to where I started — am I Latina? What does it mean to say that? Here I am, 21 years old, and still frequently ask myself these questions. I have to teach myself about a culture, language, and lifestyle that I had never been a part of.
This is why the administrative ask from the Seattle Chapter is an important one: there is a great need and urgency for our foster homes to be culturally appropriate for the foster youth they are taking in. I appreciated being exposed to another culture because it allowed me to grow in my understanding of others, however, I still needed help understanding my own background and identity. I needed to know who I was and what that meant for me moving forward into my young adulthood.
Our country historically has polarized, crippled, and attempted to eliminate the cultures of people of color, so it is no surprise that this is also reflected in the institution of foster care. We need to do better and improve the paths we are setting up for foster youth; it’s not just about survival and meeting basic needs. It’s also about investing in the individual and setting them up for success. The ability to know and accept oneself is a huge part of that. It is vital that foster parents receive cultural competency training to ensure that foster youth receive the highest level of care.