In 2013, an article by National Geographic was published featuring a visual portfolio of what they expected humans to look like by 2050. I remember the awe I felt in the pit of my stomach when I realized that a lot of those future humans — looked like me.
I am “mixed”. White, black, and Asian with a sprinkle of Native American. When I was a little girl with tightly coiled curls and large almond eyes I was called a “mutt” by other kids, and yes, sometimes their parents.
If you’re mixed too, you’ve probably heard a few, if not all, the following:
Mixed babies are so beautiful, you’re lucky.
You don’t *sound* black.
You wouldn’t understand [plight of X race] because you’re mixed.
What are you?
Where are your parents from?
Do you speak [insert language]?
Oh well you know…everyone’s going to be mixed one day.
In these moments, you grit your teeth and laugh. You act as though this is the first time you’ve ever heard someone say such a thing. It’s in your best interest to get used to your nationality being the icebreaker. After all, they’re just trying to be *nice* right?
When I was 5, I remember looking in the mirror and becoming deeply aware of my face. I had the curliest chestnut brown hair with blonde undertones. Big almond brown eyes. A button nose. Oval face. Big cheeks. Full lips. Gap teeth. My mom would tell me how I was beautiful, unique, and one-of-a-kind. When other kids made fun of my lips she’d smile and say “just wait, they’ll be spending thousands of dollars to get lips like yours one day.” Of course I didn’t believe her because that’s what moms are supposed to say, right? She told me that her and my dads genes fought tooth and nail and that’s why all my features were in the middle. Why I didn’t *look* like her or my dad. I was sad. I wanted to be the “spitting image” of someone. I wanted people to know that my mom wasn’t my friend. That my dad was definitely not my creepy old boyfriend. That my grandparents were absolutely NOT old people who adopted a Latina baby from Mexico. I wanted my face to carry my family’s legacy. To blend in with my family. To be one of them.
Out of all my heritages I felt *most* connected to being Thai. After all, my mother was born in Bangkok, my grandmother spoke to me in Thai-glish, and I spent many hours in the back of my grandmother’s Thai restaurant. I ate chicken satay by the pound and didn’t dare raise my foot higher than anyone’s head. I longed to go to Thailand. I needed to see where my mother was born. I needed to feel connected to a place, and more importantly, a people. So I went.
I spent a month in Thailand. I went to the mountains, the desert, and the islands. I took a cooking class hoping to spark a connection through food. I prayed with monks. I bathed elephants. No one in Thailand knew I was Thai. The country felt so foreign to me that at times I myself forgot that I was Thai. I was just another American tourist. My mother’s birthplace, the city of Bangkok, felt like any other city with KFC’s and rush hour traffic. It didn’t feel familiar. It didn’t feel like home. Hell, they even made their Pad Thai with ketchup — what the f**k. Thailand didn’t make anything come full circle for me. It ended up being just another place I had been to. There was no Eat. Pray. Love-ing. It wasn’t until I was flying back home after my six week SE Asia trip that I realized:
The world is my home. I connect to all people because I am all people and all people are me. Millions of stories across many different lands all came together 25 years ago to carry on through me. I am able to bridge the gap between two opposites for I am both. I am progression in human form. I am a messenger of traditions and a cultural unifier. My blood wraps around this planet as does my heart.
I am a citizen of the world.
As the years go on, I get asked those repeated racial questions less and less. More marriages are interracial. More babies are multicultural. The world is getting browner by the hour. The “two or more races” box gets checked more each day. National Geographic’s prediction becomes more and more true. It remains that I don’t feel like I belong anywhere from a racial standpoint — but that’s okay, because I now know that I belong everywhere from a human standpoint.