When you look at yourself in the mirror what do you think of yourself? Are you the same person that is reflected outward? Know that there are no bounds to which identity can be expressed.
To those of you who might feel a struggle or conflict with their identity whether that's within race, sexuality or simply your outward appearance this is a mini letter to know that you will be able to grow and find an identity within yourself at your own pace, when you experience life and interact with others you’ll find your tribe.
As a second-generation African American young woman, I find it interesting navigating my place in society in terms of how I identify. Being black in America, your identity is chosen for you. People will judge you and decide how you should be treated based on how you look and how you speak. My grandparents on my dads’ side emigrated from Jamaica and gained citizenship in the United States. My mom is a fourth generation African American. I identify as an African American, and on paper, that makes sense, but that was never enough for me.
Growing up, I struggled with my identity because even though both of my parents are black, I had quite an unconventional upbringing. From pre-k to third grade I attended a Japanese school called Seigakuin. I loved it so much, and I had felt like I fit right in, but it wasn’t until I transferred to an American public school in fourth grade that I really started to feel different and question my identity. Though I do remember one other time, while attending Segakuin when I was in third grade. I came home crying because that was the day I found out I wasn’t Japanese. As bizarre as that sounds, it’s hard to explain my mindset at that age, because it’s not like I didn’t notice the difference in our skin tone, but it was a moment when I realized that the culture I grew up with wasn’t really my culture.
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I didn’t know what it meant to be Jamaican or even African American, in the traditional sense. I had been so proficient and fluent in Japanese that I had to relearn English. So, when my parents eventually transferred me to a traditional public school, I realized that people didn’t know how to perceive me. On the outside, I was black like anybody else, but on the inside, I felt different, I felt other people would ask me why I speak a certain way or why I’m eating dried fish etc. I didn’t fit in with any of the kids and I had no friends at the time, so I would still hang out with friends from Segakuin because that’s what was familiar.
As I grew older, I started to realize that my identity as a black female adolescent is more important than I had initially thought, I still was very much connected to my Japanese community, but I found myself venturing out through finding new interests and meeting new people. This was quite a difficult transition process because most of my life throughout middle and high school, I had felt out of place and I couldn’t connect or relate to anyone. Growing up, I sought out my identity through the media whether that was social media or what I saw on television. For black women positive representation can be hard to find. Through the media, I only received a birds-eye view of what black women can be. The time, I had felt as though I wasn’t the right type of black, and that was a painful realization. As menial as it sounds, it hurt to not see myself reflected in the media, and not in a positive light. It took me a while to realize that I was not alone, and that there are countless young women of color who feel the way I do.
Looking Back, I do not regret going to the schools that I had attended because they helped me reflect on my identity even more. And despite my seemingly negative experiences. I met a lot of great people along the way who made each of my experiences worthwhile, I now feel fortunate to have found friends who I feel connected to on an interpersonal level. Over time I have developed my own unique identity through the music I listen to, and I have been able to express myself through the clothes I wear, so that no matter where I go, or who I am around, I am able to feel secure within myself as a young black woman.
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Look in the mirror and ask yourself the question of who you really are? Does your reflection represent who you are as a WHOLE? Don't feel like you have to know the complete answer now, identity can be everchanging, it is a growing process.
Written By: Eve Daley
I am a college student who loves learning about the stories and backgrounds of others. Personal passions include film, photography, and writing.