I feel like the most common argument that I hear when people talk about racial issues is ‘Why do you care so much about race?’
Why do I care? Because I’m not really given a choice in the matter. Trust me, if I was given the choice, I would clock out of this experience at the end of the day and shut it off, but I can’t. Is it because I’m ashamed of who I am? Absolutely not. But sometimes, I’m really, really tired of being asked questions.
Now granted, I know that as human beings we are teeming to the brim with curiosity. If we see something different, most of us want to understand whatever it is we encounter. I think that’s why we’ve come up with so much cool shit in human history, but maybe that’s just me.
The point is, I get why people are curious, but you have to understand that your curiosity is fucking exhausting.
Let me reiterate the fact that I was born and raised by my white family. My mother had me at twenty-four and we lived with my grandparents in a beach town. When my mom wasn’t working, we’d pack up the car and hit the beach for the weekend. I had an afro and bright blue eyes. My skin was extra tan. Granted, I’m light skinned in the first place, so it wasn’t that hard.
My mother at the time had dark hair that was nearly black and blue eyes and I was her very brown child with the same bright, blue eyes.
People would stop my mother in public and stare at me. For her, the maternal pride swelled that I was her daughter and that she birthed me. I didn’t know why it made me feel uneasy. Now that I’m older and have the language to put to my feelings I can tell you it’s because there’s a difference between people looking at you and people seeing you. I was seen. I was visible. I wasn’t trying to be, I just was.
Now again, do I blame my mother or even the curious people who stopped us? No. I’m sure they had good intentions. But the road to hell is paved with them.
Still, I was being looked at. My mother and I were being looked at. “What is she?” “Her eyes are so blue!” People towered over me and stared down at me. They were looking at me, but they didn’t really see me because if they really saw me, they would have seen that there was a small girl left feeling incredibly awkward… and didn’t want to be gawked at.
There’s a different look in people’s eyes when they look at you as an object versus when they look at you because they’re trying to connect with you. I’ve become really good at deciphering that look because I’ve seen it my entire life.
When strangers would approach my mom, after a while I would cover my eyes. They would point out my differences and those differences made me feel insecure. I couldn’t help my eyes. Or my skin. I couldn’t help those things. And this experience has never stopped.
When I entered school I was asked by my peers what I was.
The questions became louder.
Every census filled out. Every new person met.
When people ask if they can ‘ask me a question’ when they barely know me, I know where that conversation is going.
Why do I care so much about race? I was never given the choice.
On days where I don’t feel like talking, I find some solace in mirrored sunglasses.