Navigating My Own Race(s)

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

What are you?

I am American.

No, but what are you?

I am Vietnamese. My father comes from a childhood of war. A war that took his father and brother and sister without notice. My father comes from broken English and mispronunciations. From corrections from others, even though he understands the language. My father comes from phở for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even though I never learned the language or visited Vietnam, I still find pride in it. I find pride that I carry in my blood the same strength that carried them through the Chinese, the Khmers, the Chams, the Mongols, the French, and the Americans.

I am Syrian. My grandfather came from immigrants. They fled from religious persecution. They came with nothing, but the clothes on their back and the memories of those that they had left behind. I come from these same stories still being played out today. I come from hearing the hurtful rhetoric and mischaracterizations of a group of people who want nothing, but the help of others. While I may not speak their language or know all their traditions, I still find strength in their perseverance.

I am white. My mother comes from a Syrian father and a white mother, but her skin would tell you she is only the latter. My name comes with a badge of privilege that can only be traced back to the whiteness of it. I come from being constantly whitewashed because to not fit into racial stereotypes clearly meant that I was just white.

Okay, but what do you identify as?

Neither? My skin is not white and my hair is not blonde. My eyes are dark and slanted, yet round. My nose is not pointed, but flat. My hair is somewhere between nappy and sleek. My skin is a schizophrenic rainbow, or maybe a chameleon of convenience. I am not sure. People continue to try to connect the dots between my freckles that are seemingly there and not, but they still fail.

I am not black or white or brown or yellow. Race may seem to just be color, but your identity reaches so much further. I have grown up in what seems like a perpetual identity crisis because I listened to what others thought about me. I could never be white or enough or Asian enough. I thought that to identify as being Syrian, Vietnamese, or White meant to choose one at the expense of all others. It was not until recently that I came to understand that my identity was my choice and that others’ perceptions of me did not matter. I learned to find wisdom and truth in the works Maria P.P. Roots and Heidi W. Durrow, two strong and proud multiracial women that helped me see that my racial identity was not black or white, but rather a spectrum of colors of my choosing. Most importantly, I learned to find value in myself and the many cultures that I am. From the many stories my Vietnamese father told me growing up, I learned the value of hard work and perseverance in the hardest of times. From my grandfather, I learned to embrace my Syrian heritage despite the negative stereotypes made against my people every day.

And from the white part of me, from the name on this application, I have learned to understand the privilege I gain from my white features and a name like Colette Faulkner. That final identifier has taught me how to not be complacent in it, but instead to use that privilege to help those who are not.

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