Courage Under Construction: My Reflections on Race

When Tricia Ebarvia and Kim Parker invited us to write for #31DaysIBPOC, it seemed easy enough. They were gifting us with an incredible space to unabashedly share who we are.

Simple, right? But if it is so simple, why am I still typing minutes before it is my turn to hit send?

Race is complicated for me. It’s hidden in the label of “biracial” that tells everything and nothing about who I am or the peoples from whom I come. It is the answer to the ever-so-sweet, often-presented-as-innocent-yet-obviously-insulting question “So what are you?” that I blurt out as “My dad is Filipino and my mom is Cajun French and a member of the United Houma Nation” but never really addresses what I am.

Race is messy. It’s mixed with my kaleidoscope of identities  and is tucked away by the nineteen-year-old who spent hours in front of the mirror replacing /ərl/ with “oil” and making sure her mouth wrapped around the “r” in “iron” just right so that her college buddies would stop laughing and give her what she thought was the best compliment of “You don’t sound like you’re from New Orleans” (i.e. “Gee, you sound smart.”) all those years ago.

Race is loss. It is growing up in a home where three languages could have been spoken and walking out only owning one. It’s trying to understand why my so serious father stopped teaching us when we giggled at his Tagalog and wondering why my mother saved her Cajun French for holidays and other secrets to be kept from young ears.

It is wanting often to avoid the equity training responsibilities for which I volunteer because, on any given day, I would rather wallow in my own biases than to gamble on my ability (or inability) to create a space for others to explore their own. It’s not knowing if race will sit heavily on my shoulders as I walk out of a difficult session or if it will be a burden lightened by the good work allies and co-conspirators of all colors can and so often do.

But that is not all. Race simply is not that simple for me.

Race is memory. It’s knowing that my own educational experience, unlike that of the majority of American children, has been filled with teachers of color–Mr. Clark and Mrs. Lopeo in  6th grade, Mr. Rankins in 8th grade, and Mrs. Battle in high school–who helped me maneuver the first generation road to college by guiding me to understand that the box I chose to check could be as important as my hard work.

Race is a bittersweet gift. It’s proudly seeing my youngest teen daughter publish an op-ed piece entitled “No One Wants Your Opinion on My Race” in her high school paper, only to find myself walking around with a knots in the pit of my stomach for two days, worried that she might come home with a story of a “friend” or foe or even a family member who ridicules or minimizes her journey.

It’s knowing that sharing my own vulnerabilities might help the young educators and colleagues with whom I now work to become better teachers for the middle schoolers we now or might one day share. It’s understanding that my discomfort shrinks when I understand it helps me build the world I want for all of my children–those I raise and those I teach.

It’s understanding that I can embrace my fear before I broach race with family or friends or search for allyship in the eyes of a colleague. Or even before I hit send.

Race is my courage under construction.

This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by my #Hfellow sister, Islah Tauheed and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle.

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