“My parents were always very up-front about race. We had a lot of open discussions about me, who I am, identifying with others that looked like me as well as those that didn’t. They always taught me to be proud of who I am.”
Jessica and I met through a professor that I had while attending UNC. As two young women who had a desire to work in sports, my professor thought that it would be beneficial for us both to connect. Beneficial is an understatement. From the very first time that we connected we talked as if we had known each other forever. A graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu (I know, how cool), one thing that I always admired about Jessica was her ability to be so authentic in who she was. Whether it was at work, with her friends, her family, she always had an energy about her that made it clear that she was comfortable with who she was and what she brought to the table. In a world where we are forced to fit cages and labels, Jessica always seemed to defy them all.
“I’m from all over, but I currently live in San Diego, California. I’m half black, a quarter Japanese, an eighth German, and an eighth Italian. My dad is black and my mom is half Japanese and half white. From a very early age, I can’t pinpoint when but because my parents look drastically different from each other, they made it an important part of my upbringing to embrace my cultures.”
When you feel like you don’t fit in.
No matter what race you are, it is hard to sometimes express how our society can make you feel because of the color of your skin. As someone who identities with a lot of different cultures, Jessica mentioned that she has experienced a lot of mixed emotions growing up.
“Racially, I felt many times like I didn’t fit in. I was ‘too white’ for the black kids and ‘too black’ or racially ambiguous for the white kids. I think it’s mostly been a lot of confusion towards who ‘I’ am as a person and the cultures that I identify with. There were times when I definitely felt uncomfortable about who I was because of societal constructs. It took a lot of unlearning what the ‘norm’ was in order to embrace and fully thrive in who I am.”
Unlearning the norm can be difficult – especially when the stereotypes we face don’t cease in the process.
Let’s talk about stereotypes.
“Some of the stereotypes I faced included being the token black friend or someone who was there to meet a quota or fulfill affirmative action. I broke down those walls by spending a lot of time just being me. Embracing who I was and loving people. I also spent a lot of time proving my worth through academics, internships, and the like to show that I was there because I deserved to be there.”
As a lot of us are dealing with racial tensions in this country and how to process the emotions that come with it, Jessica had a great point that allyship is not a one size fits all – and it is more important to embrace who you are.
“In times of racial tensions, it is important for me to take a step back and honor my identity by continuing to be true to myself. My race and racial identity don’t take away from who I am, and it shouldn’t be something where I feel like I have to choose one or the other. I am so proud to be bi-racial because it allows me to embrace and interact with so many different people and cultures. I plan to teach my kids to embrace themselves fully for who they are as people while honoring their racial identities and having a good understanding of it so they can be proud of who they are.”
I’m proud of YOU, Jessica. You are a reminder that no matter the labels the world tries to place on each of us, we don’t have to succumb to them. Your authenticity is inspiring.
Water Your Garden today.