Author: Annmarie Pryor, Pima Community College
Dear Mom and Dad,
I have felt different all my life. My brother and I have brown skin and dark black hair. The faces that raised us and our siblings are all white. I am not upset about it, but we are different. I feel as if we have been trying to pretend that we are not. We pretend that growing up in the same house, eating the same food, watching the same television shows, and celebrating the same holidays means that we are all the same. Each of us were given the same tools to succeed as we look for jobs and go into adulthood. However, once we stepped out of the house it was very apparent that we were not all the same.
I appreciate that I was allowed to go to Black and Latino science groups outside of school growing up. I felt a sense of ease when I was learning and growing up around those kids. I think it was an important safe space for me to have as a teenager. I was able to find similar groups as an adult. I would bring my white friends to Black and Latino Student Union and they were shocked to hear some of our stories. I wish that more spaces like that existed. I want you to understand that outside of those spaces, it sometimes feels like I am under attack.
I remember hearing my brother being compared to a terrorist because of his skin tone. A color that is in reality a mix between his father and mother, a black man and a woman half Irish half Cherokee. I know my other siblings may have gotten bullied. I know a girl was mean to my sister for not having the right clothing brand or making the cheerleading team. I know that probably hurts. My sister could change the clothes that brought her shame and made others speak unkindly of her. My brother cannot change his skin. He carries that and all the comments that have ever been made about it.
It becomes so common sometimes. That people talk about the way we are different. Men I have dated have said that they’ve never been out with someone who was exotic before. Women ordering drinks from me behind a bar shout, “dos mas”, with the assumption that it is easier for me to understand. Strangers will ask me where I’mfrom before they ask my name. I might say something like, “I’m from Albany, NewYork,” and then they’ll say no that they want to know where I’m really from.
Like I said, I’ve been able to find groups and individuals that have similar experiences. I find comfort in knowing that other people can relate to what I am going through because I know that not all of you can. I know I have an uncle that will say that when the Irish first came to the United States they were treated badly, too. He says that everyone is treated badly and that people shouldn’t complain. It’s hard for me to feel comfortable talking about how I feel when I hear these kinds of things from people who say that they love me. I often feel safer speaking to strangers about my experiences than my own family. I want to be able to tell you all things and feel heard. I am grateful for the life I have been given when I was chosen to be adopted. I would never choose a different life for myself. I’m not asking that you start a fight with your siblings, my aunts and uncles, but maybe start a conversation.