Mommy, I want to be Vanilla.

914139_4882881477790_648686896_oJasmin Marie Harpe,
Burlington, NJ.

It has been hard to fit in to both societies growing up as a biracial child, especially being in academia where there are few people who look like me. I had a lot of race issues growing up with my father who has very fair skin, and my mother who has lighter skin than me. Despite my racial background, society views me as black and I have become aware of stark reality since a young age. Kids used to ask me if I was adopted when my dad would pick me up from school. I even broke my mothers heart by telling her in preschool that I wanted to be vanilla, meaning that I wanted to look like my white classmates. Growing up in predominantly white schools, I always felt that I had to adapt to their norms. I will never forget the routine lice and tick hair checks performed by the nurses who failed to complete mine because my hair was in braids. Nor will I forget running from kids in a trailer park who were throwing stones and my cousins and I while yelling racial slurs, nor will I forget the time that my best guy friend from elementary school left my birthday party when his mother realized that I was black. These types of things stick with a child for a lifetime; no wonder why I asked my mother if I could be vanilla.

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