I wish I was strong enough to say the racism I faced growing up didn’t get to me.
It would have been great to say I was in a position to simply ignore the ignorance and move on with my life. But when you’re black in America with a biracial brother, a Korean brother, and two adopted white parents, well, it’s hard to ignore the stares and comments.
I mean, are we really all that different? It’s something I asked myself a lot when I was younger.
Sure, we all looked different, but we’re as much of a family as anyone. Frankly, I never heard anyone define “family” by the looks of one another anyways. Those are my brothers, and those are my parents. Period.
They’re the ones I grew up with and created my life’s worth of memories. They’re the ones that stuck by me through the bad and good times. They’re the ones that have always loved me unconditionally.
Now that I’m older, I realize, family is deeper than blood.
The fact that I was adopted was never a secret. I mean, we were three minority children with two white parents.
There was never anything to hide.
But we didn’t see ourselves as different, either.
It wasn’t until about sixth grade when I started noticing the attention we were getting from other people. My parents never swept it under the rug, and they were always open and willing to talk to us about those experiences.
However, deep down, it made me angry.
I was just so confused and didn’t understand why people were looking at us. We’re not different. We just look different. To me, it was just my family—you know?
I remember being out at the grocery store one day with my mother and brothers, for example, and somebody approached my mom and asked how many baby daddies she had. I mean, seriously?! Comments like that were the ones that hurt the most.
Like, who do you think you are to say something like that to a mother with her children?
People would always ask a lot of strange questions and make off-color remarks about us.
Eventually, I got to the point where I stopped paying attention to how others reacted to us. I’m more secure with myself and my family these days. Stare all you want. I don’t care anymore.
This is my family whether you like it or not.
Running track was one of the things that helped me cope with that stress. The competition and social aspects of an organized sport was something I really needed at the time.
I always say I have a love-hate relationship with track. But it’s a part of me, and it’ll always be a part of me. I was so proud of myself when I signed with Oakland and became a Golden Grizzly. Becoming a college athlete has always been a goal for me, and it was just amazing to see things come together exactly how I envisioned.
But more importantly, it was good to have a platform to continue to bring awareness to racism. It’s in my nature wanting to be on the frontlines, trying to make a difference. And let’s be honest, everybody can do something—whether it’s on the frontlines or behind the scenes.
There really are no excuses.
No, it’s not going to change overnight, and I’m fully aware of it. It’s going to be a long and ugly fight, but it needs to be done. I’m a part of the Diversity Inclusion Committee on the track team. We’ve worked to get others involved in the fight by having those tough conversations.
One of the biggest issues is people not wanting to talk about it or even come to terms with the fact that this is something that still happens. Of course, it isn’t going to look the same way it did back in the days. Racism has obviously changed and evolved with the times.
But it’s also still alive and well.
It’s hard for some to come to terms with it because it still impacts a lot of people—not just black people but all minorities in this country.
Every road towards progress first starts with a conversation.
It’s even more important to educate young people on these matters so that the implications and knowledge of what has happened in this country is instilled in a way that we can continue to move forward.
The people in those higher-ranking positions aren’t going to be around forever. We’re the next ones to lead this country, and it’s our job to have these conversations with our generation and the younger generation so that we can do better.
We have to beat this.
As long as there’s a breath in my body, I’ll keep fighting for what I think is right. And a lot of that attitude stems from my parents and their fight for what they believed in.
I don’t know where I’d be today if my parents didn’t step up and take me in. If they were as close-minded as some, it’s scary to think I might not even be here.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for stepping up, Mom and Dad.
You did great. Not only did you raise me, but you raised me to be comfortable in my own skin as a black woman.
You’ve always pushed me and my brothers into being whatever we wanted to be. It wasn’t always easy, but you did it.
Not a lot of people can do what you did. And not a lot of people would pay attention to those little details that made all the difference. When you, mom, for example, took classes and looked up books just to learn how to do my hair, it meant the world to me. You made sure it was a priority.
To me, it’s proof that family really is deeper than blood.
I don’t care if the whole world stares at us. You’ll always be my mom and dad, and I’ll always love you for taking a chance on me.