I grew up in a caucasian American family in Highland, California, one of the more diverse parts of this nation. I was raised with the reality that not everyone looks like my family and I. My friends came from different racial backgrounds and cultures, ate different foods, had parents who spoke heavily accented English, if they spoke it at all. This was my normal.
I've always thrived in environments with a diversity of people. It makes me very uncomfortable to be in a room with a bunch of people who look just like me, or who I know think the same way I think about things (why this bothers me, I don't know. Maybe therapy one day will clear it up for me). Because of this, I've always sought out diversity. I attended Unitarian churches and black churches and the whitest-of-the-white Southern Baptist churches with friends. I joined a support group for gay youth. My closest friends came from far corners of the world because, for some odd reason, I felt that I related to them better.
In 2005 I moved to Kenya for college, and suddenly I was experiencing diversity from an entirely new perspective. Nobody looked like me, or spoke like me. I was at once a living stereotype - the assumptions and generalizations (many well-deserved, some not so much) about white women in Africa merits its own post - and a point of fascination. Strangers would stroke my hair on the bus. To say it drastically altered my view on the world, and my place in it, would be an understatement.
I met my Nigerian husband in Kenya, where we were both students, and after two years of living together (and a long, complicated immigration process), we moved back to my home in Southern California. Fast forward 5 years, and now we have a beautiful daughter. She is the embodiment of the diversity I've always sought. Two cultures, two ethnicities, blended together to create a perfect little being.
I've blogged randomly since I was a teenager, because I love to write. When my daughter came along, she gave this space a new meaning and purpose. There are challenges that we face as a family because of how we look and where we have come from. My husband and I experienced it in Kenya, when our relationship was constantly pigeonholed and scrutinized. We experience it now, when people question how we manage to overcome cultural barriers and love each other anyway. Our daughter will face these same challenges - we live in a black and white world, in a country that is still struggling to come to terms with a dark history of institutionalized racial hate. The division has not been erased.
How will my daughter deal with this? How can my husband and I maintain a strong marriage despite the cultural divide between us? As our family grows, how are we going to emphasize to our children that they do not have to "pick sides?" How are we all going to gracefully respond to the curiosity and ignorance we are sure to encounter?
Posts on diversity:Books and Books and Books
Ruminations on Race