Story on Using Your Voice

City: Los Angeles

Industry: Fashion

This was my awakening to the brutal reality that I was different.

I’m bi-racial and grew up in a predominately white town raised by a white mother. The process of self-identity as a woman of color came as I started to understand the pain of silence and the power of voice.

I was sitting in psychology class, the only black girl; everyone else was white except for the Indian girl adopted by white parents. Our teacher asked for a volunteer and, since I sat in the front and was an A+ student, I many times fell subject to her pressuring me to volunteer. I sat in stillness as she enthusiastically asked me to participate. She proceeded to say, “Oh come on it’s not like I’m going to lynch you or anything.”

Crickets. Like, what the fuck, did my teacher really just say that? Now I’m a black girl in a room full of white people who are all quiet and staring at me waiting for a reaction. To their disappointment – or more to my own – I said nothing, I did nothing. The class moved on per usual. This was my awakening to the brutal reality that I was different. No one knew my pain in that room except me.

Fast forward to the same class a couple months later – we’re covering the topic of prejudice. The teacher calls me out and asks, “Do you have anything to share with us?”

This was my moment. “Yeah, actually I have a story.” I proceeded to tell her about what she did in class months before.

All the students yelled, “Yeah I remember that!” All the students who were quick to be bystanders months before now were on my side after I did the hard work of addressing the issue. Where were the students that were going to have my back? Who knew what this experience did to me?

And so began the journey of learning to navigate what it meant to be a biracial black woman in America.