In elementary school, we ate lunch in our classrooms, so there wasn’t an opportunity to select who you sat with. However, when I transitioned to middle school, the entire grade ate lunch in the cafeteria and students were free to sit with anyone they’d like. Oftentimes I’d see peers befriend those who look like them, and for me that was never the case because, well, no one quite looked like me. Even the few half black half white kids I knew didn’t look like me, so I never had a natural attraction to a certain group of people based on race because there wasn’t necessarily a sense of comfort with any particular group. Now that being said, I’ve never felt out of place or a disconnection from my classmates either. I’m more like the misfit that fits. Rather than eating lunch with the same group everyday, I bounced to different groups throughout the week. With the encouragement of my parents, I’ve developed connections with those I have a shared cultural background with and those I don’t.
I’ve grown to appreciate my apparent racial ambiguity because it never pigeon-holded me into a particular group. Instead, it has initiated random connections since many aren’t able to assume what I am. While some find my race apparent, others don’t, but either way, I’ve noticed people are curious about who I am. I’ve found that, unlike some mixed people, I have yet to grow tired of the question “what race are you?” since it’s inquiries like these that open the floor for meaningful dialogue, new realizations, and increased awareness. I admire the courage of people who ask these questions rather than staring quizzically, because the only way we learn is by being vulnerable and asking the questions no one is willing to ask. And when you ask from a place of genuine interest, it often makes the other person feel honored that you’re interested in learning. My desire to learn more about the people I encounter and their experiences, faith, and culture has expanded my perspective and sparked both short and long term connections. Although my heritage is different from my Middle Eastern, Asian, Black, or White friends, I’ve found comfort in learning that we are more similar than we are different, and the notable differences between us lead to enlightening conversations and enriching experiences. Having the opportunity to participate in festivals, celebrations, and ceremonies of cultures and faiths that are different from my own has only deepened my interest and desire to explore, learn, and connect with people from around the world.