Latoya Baerlocher-Turner, Newport News, VA. It’s fun watching people attempt to imagine my face from my name. My first name is notably of African American origin, but my last name tells a different story, so people don’t know what to expect. And it’s always the same vice versa when people who’ve met me, learn my [...]
Jonscott Williams, Gilbert, AZ. This is the question either asked, or thought but unasked, by people both Black and White. This is connected to the assumption that one of my parents is White … neither is, though an early ancestor was. Some Black people have questioned whether I was “Black enough” … some Whites have [...]
Michel Bassadon, White Plains, NY. I was born in Morocco. My mother was Austrian and my father Jewish Moroccan, known as Sephardic. In high school some of my peers said my accent was French, others said it was Spanish. They decided I was from Monaco, especially since my first name was French. For a long [...]
Zoë McLaughlin, USA. Waiting in line for the Chinatown bus in New York City, a man approached me and began speaking Spanish. I squinted at him and briefly pondered my response. This was not the first time someone has expected me to speak Spanish. As soon as I began making forays out of my predominantly [...]
Naveena Karusala Alpharetta, GA The day every person of color can be themselves and display their cultural identity without being hated for it is the day white people can “borrow” from other cultures without being hated for it.
Adrienne Crew Los Angeles, CA I’m always troubled about the concept of being an “Oreo” and not really projecting an “African American” identity but rather always being the upper middle class nerd that I was born and refusing to “code switch.” What is “Black” anyways? I get this comment both from whites and non-whites.
Nancy Rawn Storrs, CT I have been so proud of my beautiful boy for all of his 20 years. He struggled with so many high school identity issues but it has been especially painful to watch him struggle with the big question of “Who am I?” in this white community and white family. He has [...]
Jamie Lee Myers Jacksonville, FL Many people seem to identify who they are by their race. We also all seem to have a tendency toward making assumptions based on how people look. I am fair with naturally red hair that is currently blonde. Most think I am Irish and that is in my family tree, [...]
Justina Adarkwah Christchurch, VA I’ve always had a problem with identity, but ironically I realized it was me that thought I had a problem, it was society, my community, everyone else who had an opinion about ‘what’ I was and who I should be. I’m not sorry to let everyone one know that its not [...]
Shen Lin Philadelphia, PA I’m originally from mainland China but spent most of my developmental years in Europe. After moving to the US I realized the extent to which people are able to connect so deeply with their racial heritage and express their opinions so freely in this country is enviable by the standards of [...]
OTI OBOH New York City, NY Brooklyn I’m Nigerian born raised in the US and find my fluidity in my identity as Nigerian, as American and as Nigerian-American flow in the different spaces I occupy. The Civil Rights allowed for more expansion of African people to occupy different parts in the world.
Kristi Webber Las Vegas, NV Growing up, there were several clues and incidents which occurred over the years which hinted at some sort of non-European ancestry in my mother’s background, and which would eventually lead to me pursuing her family’s ethnic roots. I had heard vague rumors of “Cherokee” blood but had long ago dismissed [...]
David Pham Poughkeepsie, NY When I was young, my mom told me a macabre anecdote about the Vietnam War. She remembered that American soldiers would go through villages in search of Vietcong. As they went through, they would ask villagers in English if they were indeed Vietcong or not. Some villagers, though they did not [...]
Senju Rajan USA My race is a collision of yelps, yips, of shrieks, Carnatic Punk Rock: Alan Vega smashing a raga over my head. I’ve been bombarded all my life, their immigrant hopes and dreams warring with my domestic aspirations, collateral between my shoulders, rubble strewn across shattered streets once paved with gold, now unrecognizable, [...]
Val’Dionna P. San Francisco, CA Throughout the years it has been a bit difficult to understand the many emotions and stereotypes being of color and mixed. It is important to understand that how one is raised growing up in a complex world that continues to critique someone on the features or melancholy of their skin [...]
NIK BANNISTER Houston, TX Louisiana epitomizes how race and education interfere with opportunity, cultural identity and upward mobility.
Alondra K. Poindexter Arlington, TX I am a doctoral candidate at Texas Wesleyan University. I am currently working on my dissertation “Cultural Identity and African American High School Teachers: The Impact On Their Instruction Of African American Students In Texas”. Less African American Teachers = Lower African American Student Achievement? Segregated higher academic achievement, integrated [...]
Christina Lewis Halpern New York City, NY The strange thing about race in the western world is the strong need to put people’s identities into boxes. I have a complicated identity, which led to people helpfully telling me what category I fit in, including making up some words to describe me. I’ve chosen to describe [...]
Kristen Milwaukee, WI As a white, middle-class lesbian, I often focus conversations regarding diversity around how I am a part of the subordinate identity. I talk about the struggles that I have had and how I have worked to be proud of my identity. But, because of that, race is largely missing from my discussions [...]
Mikah Broken Arrow, OK A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m Mexican… I’m light-skinned with dark hair and it disappoints me that it’s hard to get a dark tan or that people can’t tell. I’m proud to be a Mexican American and I’m still finding my identity as a person and [...]
Nathalie Gregoire New York City, NY Brooklyn All my life I have been judged. When we see black people we automatically think they are thieves. When it comes to whites we think they are perfect. So many times we try to hide our identities, our race in order to fit in with society. But when [...]
Katie R. Phillips Green Mountain, NC I might be white, but growing up in the Southern Applachians is definitely its own ethnic identity. I didn’t truly understand this until I went to college, and brought friends home with me for the first time. One of my friends actually asked me if my family was inbred [...]
JS CA Brought up to believe my Mexican heritage was secondary to my white heritage. Didn’t learn Spanish, didn’t learn culture. As a young woman I identify with being Mexican only when I am allowed to. For example, on a jury questionnaire, I check “white” because I fear I don’t have “enough” Mexican ancestry to [...]
IN NEWS / BY EMILY WILLIAMS / ON APRIL 2, 2014 AT 12:00 AM / National Public Radio host and author Michele Norris will speak about race in America on Wednesday as a part of the Blackburn Institute’s Frank A. Nix lecture series. Norris, who previously hosted the NPR news show “All Things Considered,” authored [...]
Netanya Stein Caldwell, NJ You cant pretend to be someone you’re not. you are who you are; our background shapes a large part of our cultures, traditions, and day to day life.
Rosie Vasen New York City, NY
Melissa Johnson Brooklyn, NY With the continual killing and imprisoning, marginalization and exploitation of the black individual–blackness as an identity is loved and hated all while being continually othered
Sonali Miller Portland, OR
Dianna Pategas Sandy Hook, CT I’ve always felt a strange longing for more cultural identity. My family doesn’t have strong traditions or ties to any particular heritage which has left me with a certain emptiness. I marvel at people who have strong racial and cultural identities. I think this is why I have an appreciation [...]
Katie Hana Kuyama Northridge, CA I’ve always thought it weird to add “American” to my identity when my ethnicity is indeed Japanese. I’m a second generation Japanese living in America, but people always emphasize that because I live in America, I MUST add “American” to my identity. Not necessarily. In paperwork or community involvement, I [...]
Claire Berman Boston, MA I am a white woman and didn’t begin to understand my racial identity until I was in my late twenties. The more I learn about racism and its intersection with other systems of oppression, the more I realize how little I know and how far we have to go. So now [...]
Casi Scheidt Carbondale, IL It’s come to my attention that, throughout my life, others sometimes assume that my racial identity as white means that I can’t or shouldn’t have input into racial issues. More than once, I’ve been confronted by individuals claiming that my whiteness means I’m inherently racist, and that I’m treating “their people” [...]
Weston Mui Bellevue, WA I’ve always felt white, yet to my friends, I’m Asian. My racial identity is often confusing, even to myself.
Adriana Green Richmond, VA Cornered in the grocery store, back pressed against stacked cans and rows of condiments – “But where are you really from?” On the subway, walking home, hair grabbed by a stranger in a pale coat – “What are you?” I spend my life defending my identity. The constant questioning: but, where, [...]
Ty Pethe Seattle, WA For better or worse, we are social creatures that innately create groups of people like us. Whether it’s race, nationalism, gender, sex, ethnicity, economic class, sexual preference, religion, culture, age, sub-culture, political identity, philosophical identity, geographic identity, etc., we all tend to find value in our own (shared) identity. It tells [...]
Kayoko Mathews Seattle, WA
Sarah Seattle, WA Growing up biracial in a small, conservative, and rural town often left me feeling like I didn’t belong. No one could fully relate so I was shy and reserved. As I grew older, I realized that being biracial and bicultural is a gift that enables me to connect with a broad spectrum [...]
Jeffery J Jaekley Bolivar, MO Race matters. It shapes our identity, yet it is not the whole of our identity. There are elements that are common to the experience of any racial group, yet these are not universal to all members of that group. I’m bi-racial–white and Native American. Among whites, I’m often the darkest [...]
Deborah Gonzalez Carmichael, CA My daughter identifies herself as a Jew + Cuban + American. Being a Jew is more than a religion; it is an ethnicity, and per Hitler, a race. And for some reason “Cuban” has its own box to check on the U.S. Census; not Latin American, Caribbean, Hispanic etc. I’m not [...]
Janetta Stringfellow Brookline, MA Tons! Grew up in Cape Elizabeth, Maine in the ’70s with a white mother who denied I was adopted. Found my birth mother when I was 31, who is also white, but at least had a story about a Kenyon grad student she hooked up with on her 18th bday in [...]
Douglas Rice Fruita, CO I struggled for four decades to find some sort of racial identity…I’m bi-racial by my DNA, but having been raised in white culture where white people called me black I’ve never identified as white, and having been raised in white culture I didn’t “experience” black culture so I don’t Identify as [...]
S. Dreyfuss Novato, CA Sometimes I call myself The Last Unicorn, after the silly 1980’s movie about a unicorn, the only one of her kind, that goes searching for evidence of others. Growing up with the unusual combination of Samoan/Ashkenazi Jewish, I’ve always wondered if there was anyone else out there like me. Any single [...]
Victor Bradley Nashville, TN Often the discussion about racism is constructed as a problem with race. As if the problem isn’t with the majority’s racist attitudes, the problem is the existence of minorities. “I don’t see you as Black” translates as “I don’t see you as Black, because if I did, I’d have to either [...]
Pepetua Isabel Havea Eugene, OR
Erica Jameson, Ashland, OR. My parents adopted five muti-racial children, something unheard of in the rural mountain town we lived in. Between being confused about being different, to occasional thoughtless racism, the line “You can pass [for white]” still makes me uneasy. Does this mean that I should want to? I still don’t know.
Albert Toronto Who are the real Americans? Why do we have African Americans, Asian Americans, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, but not English Americans, German Americans?
Jennifer Wong Cernak Chester, MD I have been listening to your race-card stories for a long time and heard the topic of mixed race come up again and again. In the past identity has been a struggle for me, but now I feel comfortable with who I am. There were many days, growing up, I [...]
Phyllis W. Allen Fort Worth, TX I am a sixty year old woman who has lived through segregation, integration, Colored, Negro,, Black, African American, segregation, marches, integration, Pan Africanism, opulent consumption, financial catastrophe and now I’m just me.
Lance Remington Stuart Rood Redlands, CA Sometimes I feel like I have no identity. White american? what is that? Irish? German? Dutch? Danish? I want to be able to identify with those around me. I love learning about people. Their heritage, traditions and culture. By knowing someones race or races I can then proceed to [...]
Anonymous Chadbourne Residential College
Rachel Crooks Tallahassee, FL As a woman with a Mexican mother (“Mexican” to signify “mixed race,” although my mother has been identified by some as being Native American or Filipino or ‘Asian’) and a Jamaican father (his ethnicity is never questioned, though his nationality is reduced to ‘African American’), I grew up in a strange [...]
Peggy Person Cleveland, TN I have always been so disappointed in “America”, for labeling bi-racial, or mixed race children as one race or the other. I am a white woman, who has had to listen to society brainwash my child into believing that he can be accepted as “anything but white”. I raised him to [...]
John Coffman Rocklin, CA I used to believe that we all were heading somewhere. As a kid I loved Star Trek: The Next Generation, a TV show about a future where humanity had progressed to a point where all cultural/religious/racial/political/financial/identity barriers had been dissolved and everyone (except for those less “evolved” alien races) was able [...]
George Williams Albuquerque, NM Read THE OWL
Joel Wasinger Wylie, TX By all appearances, I’m “white” and I was raised in white middle class America. My biological father was Hispanic (my relatives on that side are mostly pale, like me). My dad, the man who raised me, is part Native American. My wife’s son–now my son–is black, technically mixed race. And there’s [...]
Ana Canino-Fluit Penfield, NY I am Puerto Rican, I lived in Puerto Rico till I left for college at 17. Till I was 16 I had never given much thought to racial identity. My senior year in high school I was selected to be a exchange student to our sister school in southwestern New York [...]
Mary Oakland, CA Wherever I am living in this country also affects my racial/cultural identity
Sarah Naomi Burnett Norristown, PA Being a ‘white’ girl raised on the border of Mexico the ‘race-card’ issue was raised daily. I always felt that if I was a color, and they were a nationality, those two identifiers didn’t quantify either of us equally. I had a culture at home that was Irish/Italian but where [...]
Chandra Craven Boston, MA As a future mother of a biracial child and as black America I get insulted when someone says they don’t see my color. Unless you’re legally blind, my race is an attribute (like hair and eye color) but it is also my heritage and has helped to build parts of my [...]
Seema Chicago, IL Women already have identity issues because of an extreme and over-sexed image of women in Hollywood. Additionally, women of color are marginalized because of their under-representation in TV, movies, magazines and advertising. As an Asian-American woman, I see very few Asian men and women and when I do see them, we are [...]
Carmen Bunkers Velazquez Pomona, CA I have always loved being with my mom’s side of the family, the Velazquez family. I think they have always felt safe because I identify myself through my mom’s racial and ethnic identity, Mexican American, and so with them I feel that I can be who I really am. Knowing [...]
Anonymous Athens, GA Centuries ago, on the Horn of Africa, where my parents originated, Arabs crossed the Red Sea then crossbred and/or raped the indigenous Africans. This event has confused generations of “my” peoples’ sense of identity. I pose the question to my mother, “What are we?”, to which she responds, “Look in the mirror. [...]
Daryn Crowell Denver, CO I am a US citizen but my family moved to Peru when I was two years old. Basically my whole childhood was in Peru. I grew up with much of society telling me I could not consider myself in any degree Peruvian and that I was from the U.S. However, in [...]
Brian Murray Seattle, WA Growing up it was always hard to find my own identity because I came from a bi-racial background. I am half Black and half Japanese and always had problems being accepted by either racial group because of my uniqueness. Although coming from a low-income housing development called the Rainier Vista Projects [...]
Rosita Gonzalez Madison, WI I am not who I seem. Roads converged to make me a person of three races, of which only one sticks. My children only identify with the one that sticks. But I cannot tell them much about that race that defines them. I blog about it to examine and heal both [...]
Tomas Sanchez Forth Worth, TX It’s so easy to choose any single part of you to define your identity. When you have more than one, they all become just details.
Jacob Addington Fort Collins, CO The race issue is kept alive by statistics and surveys which constantly tell us that we humans fall into different groups, and by our own willingness to accept race as part of our identity. Is having pride in one’s own race any better than hatred for someone else’s, or is [...]
Yasmin Agudelo The Colony, TX I love this project. I’ve seen so many thoughts and statements that reflected my own experiences growing up as a child of immigrants.
Josh Smith Sacramento, CA My son is 3 years old, and the son of a white male with no real cultural identity (myself) and a Mexican woman (my wife Yadira) who is the first-born daughter of Mexican immigrants, with a large family that celebrates its culture and traditions often. I frequently wonder which ethnicity he’ll [...]
Matthew Cline Saint Charles, MO
Merrisa Hall York, PA This is an awesome project.. This allows people to be honest and make others aware that RACE should be discussed. Some people don’t like to discuss Race because it make them uncomfortable but guess what I don’t like being judged because of my race. Thank you, Michelle Norris.
Ian Peterkin Bridgeport, CT When you think about it, what do you know of the achievements of black Americans other than what you get in February? Virtually everything I’ve learned about black art, literature, culture, and religion, I learned on my own. Cut off from one’s cultural identity, point of origin, and the stories that [...]
Cayla Olson Duluth, MN I have always felt that I had to qualify my racial identity with those six words. I am part native, my mother being Ojibwe and French, and my father being Oneida and Irish. We lived on my mom’s home reservation, and it was never any mystery to me as to what [...]
Lagaria Farmer Springfield, TN This was hammered into me starting in the 7th grade – mostly by other black kids, but it extended to family members as well. As long as I like hard rock/metal and goth/industrial music, sound like a blond Valley Girl, date white guys and enjoy academics, I’m not black enough. Outwardly [...]
Karen Grabowski Houston, TX When I was a little girl, strangers would ask me if my mommy is white and my daddy is black. Now that I’m 27, strangers ask if “Grabowski” is my married name. And for 27 years, I’ve smiled and explained I was adopted from Samoa when I was six months old [...]
Mac Los Angeles, CA My children grew up in southern California and attended fabulously diverse schools that frequently featured “Heritage Days” where the school children were encouraged to wear clothes, and bring in food and other articles representative of their ethnic background. From their earliest years, my kids found this confusing. What were we anyway? [...]
Pilar Parish Koopman Ann Arbor, MI Amazing Project!
John Calloway San Francisco, CA I have been struggling with being a mixed race, multi-racial, muliti-ethnic identiy all my life. Belonging neither here nor there. I mean how can you be Filipino-American with a name like Calloway?
Aaron Armer Sacramento, CA My 6 word essay is based on Identity which is explaining to the reader that you can stand up to a gay bully by accepting the names said to you which allows you to take away power from the bully
Allen Greiner Lumberton, MS I had to spend time on a battlefield to finally see where we as a race were headed. It amazes me now, that that was what it took to rearrange my priorities. Scary how hardheaded we are as a species.
Lara Furar Canton, MI Understanding Race Project- University of Michigan I remember being asked this question as a child. And at various times throughout my life ever since. There was enough of “something” in my background that made it difficult for people to “figure me out”. For some reason, they needed to do that – [...]
Noël Gordon Ann Arbor, MI Understanding Race Project – University of Michigan In response to those who think [insert identity here] is the new black.
Laura College Park, MD University of Maryland
Anonymous Kennewick, WA Being Latina, with a white name, but in knowledge of my Latino surname. I try to be supportive of my friends with their biracial and transracial adoptions, but it is so hard. I have suffered and struggled so much with my identity. People have such good intentions, but the children suffer. Then, [...]
Joseph San Diego, CA There is no box for me. I am lumped in with all others who are not Asian, African-American, Latino, Native American, etc. This categorization process strips me of my identity. When it comes to opportunity, what about the fact that I grew up poor, never knew my father, and never finished [...]
Brian Garraty Virginia Beach, VA
Terra Blissett College Park, MD University of Maryland
Stacey Rosana Lake Elmo, MN
Anon Ymous Charlotte, NC “Replaced slavery chains with entitlement chains” As a white with guilt, all I can say is: I’m so sorry, twice…
Anonymous Being of mixed race can make a person feel out of place, and lacking of identity. My friend and I were talking about which race we feel closer to and he said to me, “white people think I’m Asian, Asian people think I’m white.” of mixed Asian and white I do feel similar. Being [...]