I am the intersection of my identities
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
Anaïs Nin, French-Cuban-American writer
When thinking about what to write for this month’s reflection, I read back over the notes I took. There were the gems from Dr. Young and other members, as well as the blaring realizations of how much more racial equity work needs to be done. I also noticed the blind spots which will require my own conscious and deliberate work to mitigate. I kept going back to ways in which my multi-racial/ethnic/cultural identities have shaped my experiences and views of the world and myself.
Throughout my life I was asked questions like, “What are you?” followed by “but what are you more of?”. I became someone that internalized my ambiguous identity to question my connection to and acceptance from my parents, my family, my culture. I felt the heavy burden in this harmful paradigm that dominant society created, that required me to choose…
- You look more (insert Filipina/Asian or Puerto Rican/Latino) because (insert stereotype)
- But you don’t speak “your parents’ languages”, so really, you’re more American
- Since you were raised by your Filipina mother, you must be more Filipina
- Well there are more Puerto Ricans in the Bronx than there are Filipinos so you must be more Puerto Rican
- You’re (insert expectations/stereotype) so (I will only accept you as one part of yourself because it becomes too complicated to understand you based on the intersectionality of your identities)
The more work I do in understanding what it means to be me in U.S., the more aware I am of the role White Supremacy plays through things like internalized racism, which essentially forced my parents, grandparents, ancestors to choose which parts of themselves to suppress and which parts of themselves they would pass down to their children.
I have gone through many versions of how I thought I should start my reflection essay. In each version it was clear to me that there are very vulnerable places in myself that are still longing to be voiced, understood, and valued. I can’t help but think back to the beginning of Dr. Young’s workshops, and realize how different my reflection article would have been — how easy it would have been to just write about my excitement/hope for continual growth in racial equity work within the mental health/therapy community, or about my clear expectations for myself within the RESJ committee. And yet just a few months into this journey I find myself at a very different place. Dr. Young has developed such an emotionally healing space that continues to nurture and honor my work in unpacking the most vulnerable places in myself. My hope is that everyone attending her workshop series can take this welcoming opportunity to do the same.
“Perhaps it will make sense when we learn to unlearn the things holding us back.”
Vinati Bhola, lawyer, poet
Publisher: DDP Network (Jul 2021)