Tales Of A Mixed Girl; An Open Letter To All The Mixed Girls Struggling To Find Their Identity
By Obenewa Adu
A person’s identity is shaped by many factors such as nationality, race, ethnic group, physical appearance, talents, interests, language, religion, and especially culture. Here is a deeper insight to my growth as a mixed girl; My History.
I am the proud offspring of a Ghanaian man and an Irish-Puerto Rican woman. Being mixed does not come as easy as people are led to believe. Many people believe that mixed people are given special treatment or receive more privileges, but in all reality, just because I am mixed with white doesn’t mean I actually get the same treatment white people receive. When people look at me they still see a black person.
For most of my life I found myself in an identity crisis split between two totally different ethnic groups. Too light to fit in with my dad’s family, yet too dark to feel close to my mom’s family.
I am among the many mixed girls who started to straighten their hair at a young age to fit in with the other girls in class. Every week, I begged my mother to straighten my dark brown curls until they wouldn’t coil anymore. Surrounded by kids who looked nothing like me, it led to me feeling uncomfortable and ashamed in my own skin.
I wanted nothing more than to fit in with my peers. I was caught between identities, re-molding myself with every different crowd. Constantly checking my tone to make sure it wasn’t too “ghetto” and always remaining calm or tame so no one could call me the angry black girl. Many times I have struggled with not being the typical beautiful and exotic Ghanaian woman, not fully understanding the morals or language because I was raised here. And after several Spanish classes, I still wasn’t fluent in one of my family’s many languages.
I was constantly asked to shorten my “ethnic” name because it was “too much work to say.” I was no longer Obenewa Afia Adu, I was O.A., Obe, or sometimes even just O. At first, it was fine. I didn’t mind until I realized people around me could learn names like Madison or Natalie. Seven letters just like mine, but for some reason, no one was eager to learn my name or pronounce it correctly.
I had no one to turn to with the thoughts racing through my mind. My white mother with silky straight hair and pale freckled skin would never understand my struggles. My Ghanaian father considered me privileged, and I don’t blame him in this society. I hated everything—from my dark brown curly hair, the gap in between my front teeth to my caramel skin that changes with the seasons.
It took me a long time to realize the beauty of being multiracial and the three different amazing cultures that I belong to. I started to notice where my features came from and it helped me connect. My curly hair and hooded eyes either from my Puerto Rican or Irish ancestors, my flat nose and the gap in between my teeth from my Ghanaian ancestors. I started to eat more of my countries’ different foods, and whenever I got the chance I would write essays about where I was from, owning the fact that I was multi-racial and highlighting all the amazing things my countries had to offer. I spent hours upon hours Google-searching all the places I am from, trying to get a deeper understanding of who I really am.
I have grown to embrace both cultures and be proud of who I am, which was not easy.
Growing up I watched Hannah Montana on TV every day, the story of a girl with two identities. Hannah is a normal kid by day and a superstar at night. Now I see that in my own way, I am like Hannah, getting the best of both worlds.
I know that being of multiple races does not mean I am any less “full blood,” and it does not mean I am “washed out.”
I can’t imagine life without my iconic Irish step dance classes, jollof rice for dinner, and arroz con leche for dessert.
I have learned to stick up for myself and love who I am.
I am proud of my growth and now I know that only I can define myself.
My name is Obenewa Afia Adu.
Obenewa Adu is a 17-year-old senior in high school in Stamford, Connecticut. This is her second year as a Girls Write Now mentee. Obenewa is originally from New Haven, but has moved around, attending schools in Queens, Hamden, and Stamford. Obenewa’s favorite types of writing include poetry, journalism, and memoirs. She is passionate about writing and volunteer work. In the fall, Obenewa will continue her higher education at a four-year college with the hopes of one day inspiring change by breaking mental health stigmas around the world.