To those of you who don’t know me, or to those of you who do, I am a girl who likes to hide behind her facade, a wall between the external and internal, the separation of the world from the heart. Why is it that I’ve walked around for eighteen-years not knowing who I am? I feel everything in a variety of colours but I’m colour blind. I feel in hues of blue and purple but I just want to be pulled from this monochromatic world I’ve built for myself. This poem speaks to the wall that I’ve built that protects my heart and soul from all that I feel. It is only now that I have realized how damaging it has all become. I have started to ever so slowly remove every brick of my protective layer in the hopes that I can make genuine connections within myself, specifically within the relationship between my feelings and my heart and soul. The first step to abolishing the wall that surrounds me is to explore my race, ethnicity, and culture; however, this has always been the bolder on my shoulders, threatening to crush me if I ever took a misstep. This poem, what I have to say is who I actually am and how I actually feel. My identity is always something I have struggled with, I never quite know who I am on the inside because of the ambiguity that surrounds the outside. I have always kept my feelings to myself whenever it came to my mixed race heritage because, simply put, I never really knew how to respond to the question that followed me…
So What are you?
The quintessential question for any soft skinned girl whose skin doesn’t seem to fit into the categories of white, brown, or black. Because “human” is an answer that simply isn’t enough for them. They can’t handle my racially ambiguous skin tone or eye shape because they’re not quite almond and they’re not quite round. They itch to know just what I am like i’m some sort of puzzle that needs to be figured out – where every different colour on my rubix cube needs to be sorted so they can see every aspect of my culture. It helps them sleep at night when they can just pin down the reason for my lighter skin, freckles, and for a name that doesn’t quite seem to match what i look like.
Victoria Rose Rennie
An English name, so I must be English? They assume. Teachers always seem confused during roll call when a not completely Asian kid says “here” in reply to a completely English name.
So What are you? The question that seems to follow me around more often than my shadow. I’ll try to hide my annoyance under a smile and reply, “Filipino and Scottish.” Oh really? That’s it? What do you mean that’s it? I would’ve thought that you were “just white” or “just asian” because it’s as if my culture, my race, and my ethnicity are able to be compartmentalized into tiny little boxes labelled “white” and “not-white”
So if you’re Filipino and Scottish, which side do you identify with? A question even more invasive than the last. I didn’t realize I had to choose sides of myself. Why do I have to choose a race?
Half of my body is a tropic where children play with whitening creams after their mother’s tell them “they’re getting too dark”. Half of my body is a highland culture that was destroyed, forgotten, and assimilated after they tried to win the power back.
So what are you?
I’m a product of my parents love. Just like you, and you, and you. I’m no different because I am human, I’m not some alien whose origins are to be probed and traced back to tribal martian lords who conquered red desert skies and gaseous martian fields. I am a human being.
60% water flooding, 7% blood rushing, and half a percent a beating heart. Not a show dog whose pedigree needs to be determined before buying.
So what are you? I am a human being just like you. Two legs, two arms, two ears, two eyes, a nose and a heart that beats in time.
So what are you? Asking someone “what” they are diminishes them as something less than human. People are not a “what” they are a “who”.
They ask “what” so they can place you in a little “race box” and place a check beside “white” or “not-white”.
So what are you? It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. And I am not a “what” I am a mixed human being with a Filipino mother, Scottish father, born in Canada.
So please do me a favour and stop assuming. Turn your “whats” into “whos” and stop staring at me like a three headed beast. Or at least don’t ask me
So what are you?