• Mariama Suwaneh

Letters To My Freshman Self: On Embracing My Mixedness

No more hiding. No more suppressing. Just big, black, latinx unadulterated you.

Nina - Up until now you’ve been comfortable being everyone’s “palletable black girl.” You are just dark enough for them to recognize you’re different but light enough they still hold you close.  You promised yourself that college would be a “fresh start, a four year journey of ethnic self discovery.” No more hiding. No more suppressing. Just big, black unadulterated you. Pause. Big, black, unadulterated you? Do not be quick to fall prey to the roles outlined for you by white America. They see a black girl, you know yourself as Afro-Mexicana. A perfect blend of Latinidad and Black Power.  Mixed.  Both cultures equally powerful. Both cultures equally responsible for that beautiful caramel complexion. Both cultures resonant within your soul. Hold on to that truth. Your whole life they have tried to divide you. And if you are honest with yourself, they have succeeded.  I understand it’s hard. That you are afraid of what they will say if you push back against the “just black” box they’ve put you in. But recognize, they have placed you in this box out of fear. Oh the things you are capable of, if you only live into your completeness. Your potential as an Afro-latina is too much for these systems and practices. They are afraid that if you look in the mirror and see all that you are, you will recognize that your very being is the start of a new world order. One of togetherness, graciousness, and hope. You are the living proof that Christ-like community can exist. A blending, a mixedness of cultural understanding. A beacon of patience, love, empathy, and forgiveness. A reconciling of history itself.  Embrace it.  Your mixedness is like a stew, the true melting pot, a wholeness, a full course meal that’s not done until all the horchata is drank, and the benachin is ate, and you’ve licked the plate after that perfect peach cobbler.  You are mixed. Not two halves. Not two sides. You are mixed.  You are not confusion. You are not inauthenticity. You are not performative culture. You are mixed. What you didn't realize is contrary to popular belief, your curls came from both Mother and Father. Your lips are Mother's lips, and your puffy cheeks are hers as well. Your nose is Daddy’s nose and your eyes are his as well. You are both. All of it. Mixed.  And despite what the world tells you, there is no “right” way to nurture the cultures within your soul. You do not need to speak Spanish to be Mexican. You do not need to know every song to be African. You only have to live and breathe and be. You only have to love and cherish your cultures, seeking more and more understanding and depth in your relationship with yourself and your history. And that love for yourself - mamacita, it’s long overdue. I need you to know the world may not understand the nuances of mixedness. They may not be able to see your Latinidad but you know it is there. You are the only one that must believe it. When you took leftover benachin for lunch after a weekend at Dad’s, you fought yourself against the urge to eat with your hands. You hid stories of communal dinner plates and everyone talking about their day for fear that others would not understand. But they didn’t need to. Only you needed to cherish the story. You can empathize with their inability to see you and your fullness, but recognize it is not because of a lack of fullness or completeness on your part. They are afraid of the power you hold. So they try to slice you into palatable pieces. Don’t allow them to break you. You are mixed.  You are cultures connecting and forgiving and ultimately loving. You are mixed.  You are Latinidad and Black Power.  You are mixed. You are mixed. You are mixed. Embrace it. Yours truly, Your favorite twenty four year old Blaxican

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