Power of One
If you have ever been to Kirkland, you probably know how much of a suburban cliché it is. It has Teslas, Range Rovers and well-kept green grass surrounded by, you guessed it, white picket fences. You’ve also probably noticed the community is predominantly white. Growing up as an African American female in a transracial adoption was difficult, especially in Kirkland. The word “poor” had a different meaning in Kirkland — “poor” meant middle class. Growing up, my family was a little above middle class so we were more than comfortable. That meant my mom could dress me in the latest fashion trends, regardless of the price. But I still felt like I didn’t fit in, no matter what I wore. I didn’t know if I was white or black. I felt like I had to choose. Many mixed-race youth in trans-racial adoptions grow up with serious identity issues that follow them into adulthood. This is something I’m still struggling with.
During elementary school, I could count the amount of “colored kids” on one hand. Yeah, that’s actually what we were called. In 6th grade my class got a “new” kid. She was also female and African American. More than half the time I was called on I was called by her name, and she was called by mine, although we looked nothing alike. Growing up, the majority of my friends were white. If you asked me which race I identified with as a child, I would’ve told you that I identified as white if I could’ve. But that changed when the new girl and I bonded over sharing the same skin tone. Right off the bat we were drawn to each other. We understood each other. We understood the embarrassment of always being picked first for basketball, only to immediately let our team down by not living up to the expectation of being good at basketball — like every African American should be, right? Growing up my favorite sport to play was soccer, and I played for various recreational teams from 1st grade until 8th grade. I was usually the only person of color on my team.
In third grade, it was tradition at my elementary school for us to go to the high school to swim. Fortunately, I already learned how to swim at a local pool in downtown Kirkland. After summers of practice I was still not the best swimmer. I still struggled. So as any normal third grader would be, I was scared knowing about the embarrassment I was about to go through. Scared that people would think I was a poor swimmer because I was black. Having everything come down to the color of my skin, like the automatic advantage I should have at basketball, made me question my own identity. Who was I, if I didn’t fit every black stereotype? After getting out of Kirkland and moving to Seattle, I’m surrounded by peers who look like me. Not only am I comfortable in my own skin, but I am proud as well.