Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sink Hair

I was hunched over, head in the sink, while water and conditioner splashed in my eyes. My mom would tell me to hold still to make it was easier for her to drag the brush through my tangled mane. 

Because my hair was so curly, I couldn’t wash it in the shower, not by myself anyway. When I tried, it would look frizzy and unkept. So, my mom had to do it for my two sisters and me. 

I cannot tell you the embarrassment I felt. All of my other friends in third grade could do their own hair. They had long, straight hair. Beautiful hair. 

After swimming, my hair would get hot, sticky and frizzy in the summertime heat. But theirs would remain gloriously soft, sometimes rattled with luxurious waves. 

I felt ugly and I hated this hair. Why couldn’t mine be straight and long like my moms? Why did it have to be nappy? 

Because I wasn't just white. So every morning, I was doomed to stand in the kitchen, leaning over the sink with a towel heavy on my shoulders just so my hair could be tugged on in a futile attempt to comb out the persistent knots.


To Make You Nothing

I'm hyperaware of race.

"It's 'cause she's black," I'll say or "That was too white."

It's hardly positive, more like backhand compliments, and every race gets slammed at one point. What's driven me to this when I used to see no color at all?

I could blame it on my father for pitting me in the black struggle, but then I'd have to blame my mother and her put downs of the black world. They made me see in black and white. Though that's barely a reason.

Then there are the Scantrons, salon shops, the middle school cliques, and high school rejection.  The people telling me there's no racism and then the others that racism is everywhere, just hidden. The comedians and the celebrities and what they are to themselves, to the public.

"You are what you think you are. No it's what you look like. Or how you sound/act, where you live, who you hang with, who I want you to be."


Because I am nothing, because you have made me nothing, I will make you and everyone else nothing.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Big Fat Hair

My father told my mother that she would embarrass us girls if she didn't learn how to do black hair. One problem: our hair was not black.

This long, fat, thick, curly hair grew wild with hormones during puberty, during high school. So, no, we didn't just have bad acne. We had bad hair and bad hair can't be hidden with cosmetics, no matter how much conditioner you mat down on it.

A lion's mane, that's what they called my sister's hair.

Nappy afro, that's what they called mine.

The black people wanted to put chemicals in our hair to relax it, but we liked our curls. The white people wanted to pull it down wet and cut it, but curls don't cut even. My parents didn't know any better. 

So we left humiliated and unfulfilled.

In the end, my sisters burnt their hair straight with pink flat irons and sickly smelling bottles of green oil. I watch with my curly, ugly hair and tried to embrace it, waiting for someone that knows what to do with it. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

To Pick Just One

"Just pick one."

"But I'm not just one," I tried saying.

"It doesn't matter. If you pick more than one, the Scantron won't go through."

I stared at the little green and white paper. White, Black, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Asian, or Other. Well, I certainly wasn't an Other. I was on there, three times to be exact. I just wasn't on there.

My dad told me I should always pick black because as a minority, I'd represent us (blacks) well and I'd get more financial aid. But, I didn't feel black. To put that down felt like a lie. After all, the black kids just told me I wasn't black enough for them. And I didn't have any black friends either, not where it counted anyway.

I thought I should pick how I felt...That day I thought I felt more American Indian. After all, no Native American kids had come up to me yet and said I wasn't one of them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mixed (Up) Kid at Heritage Night

Heritage Night, a high school event where everyone proudly shows off their culture by cooking the customary foods, wearing traditional clothes in the fashion show, and singing and dancing their cultural songs.

I love experiencing each culture and watching people be excited to show off where they came from, but this night always leaves me feeling slightly empty. I have eleven ethnicities so you’d think I have a lot to show, right?

That’s not the case.

My friends expect me to be part of Heritage Night, always asking why I’m not. It’s because I am so many ethnicities that I have nothing to show off.

Because I have so many different backgrounds, I know little about any of them. I was never raised with a certain culture. I can’t make a traditional Italian food, I can’t sing or dance a single Cherokee song, and I don’t have any African clothing.

Out of all my races, I look mostly African-American, yet I know nothing about their background. As a result, no one ever asks me to be part of the African Dance that is featured each year. So I am even left out of that.

I understand why though. It’s because I never had any crazy Nigerian parties or Korean family reunions like my friends. I just grew up as me, a normal girl who has no claim to any specific culture.

Around this time of year I am always reminded of one thing; even though I have many different cultures, at the same time I have none. I’m a mixed girl with no real heritage to claim. I’m everything and so I am nothing.

By Cherish Hannah

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Seeing in Color

"Don't you have any black friends?"

I was nine and not quite sure what that meant. My dad parked our high-top conversion van in the library parking lot and stood in the aisle, just looking at me.

I had been telling him about my fight with my best friend Morgan and how I didn't think we'd be friends anymore, which was bad because I didn't make friends easily. My dad kept staring and so I thought, for the first time, of my friends in color. I went down the list of everyone I knew, looking for a darker one so as not to disappoint my dad.

I came up empty.

"Why does it matter?" I asked him. Did seeing in color really matter?

I don't remember his answer. I do remember looking in the mirror and seeing somebody I didn't know looking back at me. What was this the person everyone saw? This mixed kid in the mirror was not the person I knew, not the person I imagined myself to be.

How could someone know the real me, when all they had to go by was my face?

I hated it.