"Choose only one of the following." My eyes flitted back and forth between my choices, "Puerto Rican," "Mexican," "Japanese," "White," my pencil hovering centimeters above them. I was barely ten and yet I knew that there was something wrong with this question. My mind struggled, thinking "these are all me, how I can choose one and not the others?" Hesitantly I filled in a single bubble as the form requested, the pencil strokes feeling as painful as if I had just been told I could never see one of my parents again.
I do not recall the bubble I filled in that day, but I do remember shifting my answer every time the question was posed. While I hated the feeling of being marginalized as a multiracial individual, it did force my eyes open in ways that might not have happened otherwise. As a child I did not understand what it truly meant to be multiracial. My father is Japanese and Puerto Rican, and many of my cousins are as mixed as I am; it felt normal to me. Entering the public school system I realized that it was anything but. Walking into M.E.Ch.A. Club or the Japanese Students Association drew stares and gazes. I was different from their norm and I looked it, but it fueled a desire to showcase my diversity. I wanted to prove that being Puerto Rican did not stop me from being white, or Japanese, and vice versa.
My upbringing has been a mix of cultures: the Puerto Rican dialect of Spanish my father spoke, the traditional cooking of my Japanese grandmother, the roots of my mother's family going back to the original American colonies, to name a few. Those layers make me proud of the unique heritage I have received from grandparents born on three separate landmasses and parents raised over six thousand miles apart. It is a distinct part of who I am. To this day I cherish the fact that my experiences are shaped by the attitudes and values of three very different cultures. I understand what that test helped show me: how rare my opportunity is and how rich I am for it.
Tear into it. Thanks!