This World Wasn’t Made For Me, It Was Made For Him

Sophia Taylor, Contributing Writer

Five-year-old me would hate that I’ve embraced my natural curls; she’d say my hair was too big and that I should tie it up. She never understood her internalized texturism or realized that that was what it was, but it didn’t matter because she never looked like other girls. She didn’t have straight hair—she wasn’t blonde or able to have other girls braid her hair at a sleepover. She hated how she looked in almost every way imaginable because it was one of the things that made her different. 

In the middle school of IS 276, I was one of maybe six or seven Black kids in my grade, so my friends were pretty much all White. I had White teachers, White role models, White friends, White neighbors, and a White mother. But I was never like them, and at the time, that was all I wanted to be; my perception of what was normal was White.

Introducing Christopher: my (White) best friend at the time and next-door neighbor, whom I’d known since I was three. He loved YouTube and Britney Spears and music and dancing. He was always treated differently because of how stereotypically “feminine” he acted. Even though he was a child, everybody thought that because of how he acted, he was gay and therefore weird or different. They “othered” him. His father thought it, and other kids thought it too. Honestly, I have no idea how he is anymore because I haven’t spoken to him in years. Anyways, flash forward a few years to 3rd grade.

Eight-year-old me was still sheltered, confused, and unaware of the years of trauma that were to come. Only this was when I started to understand the world as what it was: prejudiced and cruel. Christopher and I were in class amongst other students. We were young and näive, not fully understanding the power of words. Though I understood then that children are a product of their environment, I was still livid when Christopher said something to the likes of “I would never want to be in a Youtube video with a Black person.” 

Not truly knowing how to react to his statement, I remember telling him that what he said was wrong and walking away from him. This was a small reaction to a statement that had such a strong effect on me, whether I decided to show it or not. I didn’t fully understand my identity at the time; I knew I had a White mom and a Black dad which sparked the questions: Does that make me Black? Does that mean I’m White? What do people see me as? What do I see myself as? A lot of deep questions for a child so young but that’s just mixed kid 101: You never really know who you are. Little did I know, the world had way more complicated things ahead.

Twelve-year-old me would not even know what to think if she saw me now. Seventh grade was one of the hardest years of my life and the beginning of a series of traumatic and unhealthy years to come. My childhood bubble of naivete finally broke, exposing me fully to the adult world of hatred and discrimination. I started using my voice for change; I founded my student-led club that advocated for racial and gender equity—we organized events for anti-bullying and inclusion of all. I wanted to educate those in the dark about the experiences of others and the discrimination society has embedded into its pillars. I never expected that discrimination from inside my school walls, let alone by other people of color. 

“Changita” they said to me, laughing with each other as if it was hilarious—over and over and over again—nearly every day for a year in seventh grade. At first, I tried to laugh along with them, not understanding the true meaning of the phrase. “What does that even mean?” I’d question, confusedly laughing. No response. As the weeks continued and their behavior didn’t cease to continue, my confusion and questioning grew into anger and helplessness. I listened to the word itself (not thinking to Google it) and the question struck my mind: “Are they calling me fat?” Changita sounded close enough to chunky or chubby, for this theory to take root in my mind. Little did I know, “changita” is a word for a female monkey in Spanish. They weren’t insulting my body, they were insulting my identity. Once again I was just another Black kid in a White space, suffering from racism that two Latino boys happened to think was funny. That was the first time I remember crying at school. 

When my parents found out, they told the vice-principal of my school and set up a meeting with the two students, myself, and the teachers. The vice principal was a queer man of color who was accomplished and well-respected, and had always been a role model to me, so him seeing me so emotional with tears running down my face was difficult enough. I’ve learned that people seeing you vulnerable jeopardizes the perception associated with you. People see you differently—they talk, they gossip. It became my number one rule: “Never let them see you bleed.” If you are always strong in the eyes of others, it’s the only way they see you. They don’t see the pain, the fear, the weakness behind the guarded prison bars that hold every negative emotion back from surfacing. That’s what emotion was to me: weakness. 

When the students were confronted in a “safe space” for us to all have a conversation, I couldn’t hold it back anymore. I lost my position as the composed female student who was accusing two male students of racism; as the tears clouded my vision I quickly became the emotional girl who couldn’t control her feelings and was complaining. They saw me bleed. They were seeing my emotional barrier shatter into a million fragmented pieces. I was no longer a one-sided mirror allowing me to observe others while still preventing them from seeing me and the cloudy mess that is my mind. The years of being exposed to sexism, racism, White supremacy, and a lack of relationships with other people of color, specifically Black people, took a toll on my character and my ability to believe that I wasn’t alone in my experiences. I had no idea how wrong I was. 

Two-thousand and twenty-one: I’m thirteen years old and applying to high school. What seems like hundreds of years worth of paperwork and questionnaires occupied my computer screen at all times. Interestingly enough, through the dozens of school applications I completed, the vast majority all had a singular question in common. “WHAT IS YOUR CHILD’S RACE?” Of course, at first, I simply thought, “Easy, ‘Black and White .’” *You may only check one box.* But I wasn’t just one. “Is there a multiracial option?” I thought. Nope. People never really know what I am. Some assume I’m White, others guess I’m Latina, and some just straight up ask “where are you from?” It’s arguably one of the most annoying questions to hear. 

Selecting “Black” felt the closest to correct, but the doubts in my mind that others would judge me if I selected that were overwhelming. Was it wrong? Was it right? What am I? Who am I? Complicated questions, with even more complicated answers, that wouldn’t be answered in a day alone. “OTHER: __ (FILL IN THE BLANK)” was the safest bet. According to the United States Census Bureau, it’s estimated that roughly 10.2 percent of humans in America are multiracial; it may seem like a remarkably small number but in reality, it’s over thirty-three million people, who have already or are likely to experience the same thing in their lifetime. 

As a bisexual biracial woman of color, society keeps doing its best to put me in a box. To “normalize” my identity into something that is seen as the default: straight and White but my identity has been and will always be more complicated than that. I can’t select one race—I can’t just pick a side. 

Since the moment I was born, I’ve lived a double life—one person, two worlds, never fitting even remotely into one. Years of people touching my hair (with or without my permission) and a lack of understanding of what beauty truly was pushed me to stop wearing it out, and to change myself entirely, even if it meant sacrificing my health. Society has always told me I need to change—that I’m not Black enough—that I’m too White. “F**king White b*tch.” “Monkey.” “‘Sup White girl!” “Shut up half-breed.” “You’re barely Black.” “You look like a white girl.” 

Being a woman, society continues to tell me “man up,” “don’t be such a p***y,” “ stop dressing so masculine,” “act like a lady,” “dress like a lady,” “silence your thoughts,” “be seen, not heard,” “don’t be so emotional” “be like her,” “be like him.” They told me to change. I know I shouldn’t but in some ways, my brain has normalized it. I’ve got curly hair and light tan skin, traits from both my Black and White genes. I dress both masculine and feminine; I like men and women. I suffer from mental illness. I play sports and play instruments. I read and I write. I am not and will likely never be what society deems as the standard—as beauty—as perfection. I am tired of being pressured to conform—to change—to be what society deems as perfection. I can’t change who I am and I refuse to. 

“Don’t think about making women fit the world — think about making the world fit women.” 

– Gloria Steinem