As a child, I was taught that love casts out all fear
Fear of difference, of embracing those unlike me
Unconditional love does not see with the eyes much like we do
Rather it sees with the heart
In this way, we are able to go to new places, meet new people, and not judge or make assumptions
I went to India this past summer, with an open mind and open heart
Although it was specified as a “service-learning” trip, I definitely was able to learn and take away more than what I was able to do in the community
I saw some of the strengths, beauties, and limitations of humanity
The saddening still existing misconception that the only face of America is a Caucasian male or female with blond, straight hair and blue eyes
When asked where I was from?
“America” was not an appropriate answer
More like Africa, West Indies, or Bangalore
But I could not accept or deny these guesses of my origin
For I have no specific knowledge of my ancestors
My social identities were brought to the forefront
And my privilege made more apparent
The question of “who am I?” was challenged daily
But I discovered more and more as the days went by
As pieces of myself were revealed, I saw the face of humanity in a new light
I began to see what it means to be a community, to work towards a common goal with strangers who quickly became friends
An experience that crossed often untouched territories of working together regardless of language barriers, class, nationality, skin color, or religious and spiritual difference
I had found a place where I could be authentically me
When I came home and reflected I was enthralled by what I had discovered
Who am I?
I think that is a question many of us have asked ourselves at one point in our lives.
Who Am I? What makes me, me?
Yes, I am a Black American, working class, heterosexual woman, who is a first generation college student
I pray to God, who I believe helps write the script of my story, my life
I come from a people that have time and time again been ignored, misunderstood, victimized, and scrutinized, yet always still they rise
But really, who am I?
Am I only the mere things that people can see?
My dark skin, textured hair, or my wallet and pockets with little money?
Am I not ambitious, strong, confident, motivated, and talented?
Am I not hard working, caring, nurturing, and compassionate?
Who am I, really?
I am not merely one of these things but a mixture of it all
And although life has its struggles, I am not willing to tumble and fall
I am not the color of my skin or the value of my income but rather what I do being a Black person of low SES
These traits which are a major part of my identity and life do not completely define me
They are merely intricate pieces to a puzzle that fit together to create who I am and who I choose to be
But what about those things that people cannot see?
My passion for working with children, singing, dancing and being carefree?
Are these things not also a part of me?
I take pride in my ethnic history, family traditions, and interests
My love for music, mathematics, family outings, and counseling close friends
But there is so much about me that can only be seen internally
If I were a looking glass, you could see every part of me but yet all you see is one side of me…rather all you choose to see is one side of me
Either my skin complexion, my Bible I carry, the less fancy clothes I wear, my vernacular or slang
But I understand that you may not comprehend that even though we may look the same or even totally different, we all can relate to this
This question of “who am I?”
Like the iceberg effect, we are more than what people can see on the surface
There is so much hidden beneath waiting to be seen
Just take the moment and look a little deeper and you will be surprised by what you see
When I did this, I found the real me
I realized no matter what people say to discriminate, to separate
We are all not that different
We are all the same in that we are
I bleed red, you bleed red, we both cry, we laugh, we have ups, we have downs
So, when asked, “who am I?”
I can say…
I am Sharae, a young woman trying to leave a mark in the world just as my culture and identity has left a mark on my heart that always reminds me to never be afraid to just be me