Have you ever been embarrassed by your roots?

I have. In the old days of the 1960s I just wanted to blend in. I lived in a very white area and my sister and I were the only darker-skinned kids in school for many years. Finally in high school we had a handful of rotating migrant worker kids, a couple black boys, and a Vietnamese boy. The area was so white it was rumored there was a Klan group in the “dogpatch” part of town. If there was, I never heard of them causing trouble.

My sister and I were very shy and found it difficult to blend in as summer-tanned acorns going into the fall school semester. Reminds me how we used to sing that ditty, “I’m a little acorn brown.” Yes, I guess I’m a little cracked, you see. Fortunately, while there were bullies galore in those days, they left us two little brown girls alone, maybe because we were quiet as mice and tried to disappear into the woodwork. We did get called names a time or two, but our dad was good at boosting our self-esteem and psychoanalyzing problem people for us. “I’m OK, You’re OK” was a book I read as a teen.

Mom never taught us Japanese while we were young enough to soak that difficult language up. I’m sad about that now, but at the time I didn’t care. That would have really made us feel different. When Mom was invited to our middle school to present about Japan to a gymnasium full of kids, I was mortified! But, I lived.

As a college student running around on my own, I began to embrace my heritage because every darker-skinned kid on campus thought I was one of them. It was nice to attend the play “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” and fit in with the very dark audience. My first roommate was a ferocious, older black girl from East St. Louis who looked me up and down with “evil eyes” and said, “I guess you’re okay, cuz you’re not a regular white person.” Whew.

Now I love my heritage. Now it’s cool to be multicultural. I don’t get asked, “What are you?” anymore, probably because I am “old” now and paler since I stay out of the sun. My heritage comes out, though, when I don a yukata and join the obon dancing at the Japanese Festival.



About moonbridgebooks

Co-author of Cherry Blossoms in Twilight, a WWII Japan memoir of her mother's childhood; author of Poems That Come to Mind, for caregivers of dementia patients; Co-author/Editor of Battlefield Doc, a medic's memoir of combat duty during the Korean War; life writing enthusiast; loves history and culture (especially Japan), poetry, and cats
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2 Responses to Have you ever been embarrassed by your roots?

  1. I saw that play. And my best friend was from Korea. I love your picture of the yukata.

  2. Thanks, Valorie. I don’t remember the play except that it was powerful and that I was about the only non-African-American person there, which is kind of sad.

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