Abigail: I am half French-American and half Trinidadian-Indian.
Etta: I did not expect that. How long has your family been in the U.S.?
Abigail: I was born here, and I've been living here for about six years. I actually grew up in a few different countries. I grew up in Trinidad, Venezuela, Russia, and South Africa.
Etta: Wow. How do you identify?
Abigail: Ethnic-wise? Mixed.
As far as I can remember, I knew I was different because no one was like me. I noticed that everyone had parents of the same color, and I didn't. People pointed out to me that I was different. I never noticed until they did. In Africa or in Trinidad, I was White. Then in other places, like Russia, I was Black. So I've always noticed that I was different and that I didn't really belong anywhere. Or rather, that people decided that I didn’t belong.
When I came to America to visit as a teenager, um, a child pointed out, "How are you American? Because you're not White." They said, "I thought only Americans were born White. I've never seen a non-White American." Even though the child meant nothing by their statement, I hadn't fully realized that some people didn't recognize me as an American.
Etta: So has living as an ethnic minority affected your view of yourself?
Abigail: I think it did in some aspects. From a very young age, I was made to feel like I didn't belong anywhere or in any specific community. Especially from children my age.
If I was in Trinidad, some people said, "You're not fully Trinidadian." In America, some people said, "You're not really American. You're not really one of us."
Through comments such as these, I realized my identity cannot be placed in my race, because I do not have one.
Etta: So would you say that you have found your way through that?
Abigail: I have.
Abigail: I realized that instead of letting people try to put labels on me, I needed to find out for myself who I was and that no one could tell me otherwise. Indians at school would call me names like mutt, half-blood, or impure. I had to be healed from all the hurtful words that people across ALL races have said to me.
Inside my home, we're bicultural. My dad is from Louisiana and my mom is a Trini, and on top of that, we've lived all over the world. So in our household, we definitely have the best foods from everywhere. We preserve our cultures through food and through family ties, definitely. We're more academically strict as academics is a focal point in our culture. The way we live and how we approach situations and problems are different than other Americans.
When I was living in Russia, my sister and I were beaten up simply because we were darker skinned. We got called Black paste and Black muck in Russia. We would come home with black eyes and boot-shaped bruises. We couldn't defend ourselves because high school boys were doing that to us. Somehow, I learned how to fight. I still can't explain this; it was a miracle. Then they got scared and left us alone for the most part.
Recently, actually, I was traveling with my family in America. We stopped by this Chinese place. Although there were plenty of extra seats left in the waiting area, this White, older woman came up to me and said, "Excuse me, can I sit here?" I said, "Oh yeah, sure." I thought she was talking about the seat next to me. But she didn't sit down.Then I realized that she wanted me to get up so she could sit. So I got up, and then she sat down immediately. She went, "Oh, you have nice hair by the way." Then she called her high school daughter over so that she could sit in the spot I gave up. My brother and sister witnessed that, and they were like, "Why did you do that? She was obviously trying to make you leave." I was still in shock that that had happened.
Etta: What about here?
Abigail: Here, racially discriminated? Yes, I have been racially discriminated against at Asbury, and not necessarily by White people, actually. When I first came here as a freshman, I was thinking about maybe being a part of the Asian Student Alliance (ASA) or different things like that, but someone made a comment like, "You're not yellow Asian." And I said, "Okay, well, that's fine." And another said, "Oh you're only half." Shocked, I just left, and I don't remember who it was. Then last semester, an African American student, after finding out that I was mixed, said to me, "I don't think intercultural relationships should be a thing that exists and that people should stick to their own kind." This statement came as a direct blow to my humanity, so I said, "You do realize that I wouldn't exist if that happened?" She was like, "Yeah, that shouldn't be a thing that exists." After that, I moved on from that conversation.
Yeah. I've had a well-meaning Asian friend say, like, "Don't forget where you came from. Your Asian roots." And I understand what they mean but it isn't fully true. Honestly, half of me came from Indians who were slaves in the Caribbean. That's who my ancestors were. I know where they came from and, as a result, where my mom came from. And I don't have to adopt other cultures. I understand your culture and where you came from. However, I'm half Trini-Indian, not Indian. We have a different culture and a different mindset
Etta: Okay, so what does being Trinidadian Indian/French American mean to you?
Abigail: I don't know. I think it just means that I see the world differently because the world sees me differently. So I understand two sides, and I see two sides of things, but I also see the middle road that a lot of people don't see. It simply means that I'm multifaceted and I'm versatile and that I can understand people who are like me and who are not like me, too.
Across the world, you see that one's humanity is heavily based upon race. But when you're neither race you're mixed with or no race at all, raceless basically, you are forced to search for something greater.
Etta: So has the way you see yourself affected the way you feel about others who are like you?
Abigail: I understand the struggles of mixed-race people when they talk about how they feel. They don't know who they are sometimes. When people are biased or make assumptions about race, I am able to sympathize with that. So I'm able to see the struggle of mixed-race people more and when I talk with them, we have this understanding that race is not really this Black and White. We're all kind of gray in the most complex way.
We're in the shadows because neither side accepts us for who we are. We are sometimes pressured into picking one side of ourselves when we're both. Why should I have to pick one side over the other? When I'm just me?
The message I would like to get out there is that we're all human. No one's humanity should be lesser than someone else's and just based upon what their race is. Life is more than society's labels. Don't let anybody tell you differently. It doesn't matter who you are or where you came from. You can do what you set your mind on to do, and that's the truth.
I have a different view because I am not one race. I have seen how all races can be hateful towards one another. I am half French American and half Trini-Indian, but that doesn't define me. I am from a household that taught me what true unity among races meant.