Every mixed person has been the very unfortunate recipient of rejection and criticism related to their identity. If you’ve absolutely crumbled in response to such a comment, you are not alone.
These are my top tips for coping in those moments when you feel like no one understands you.
Honor your pain
You aren’t superhuman and you don't need to be, you are allowed to have feelings about these things! You are allowed to feel sad, dejected, rageful, resentful, and more.
My top tip is to create practices or rituals around how you respond to yourself when you experience these kinds of situations.
That might look like:
Identifying mantras or affirmations that lift you up
Giving yourself time to cry
Journaling about your experience
Calling a friend
Practicing whatever practices soothe you or fill your cup up
Develop language about your experience
In the heat of the moment, it makes sense if you completely go blank or if you want to pop off in return.
It can be helpful to draft out language about your identity and experience so that you can more easily recall it in the moment. It’s also helpful to practice stating boundaries so that you can repeat them in those situations.
Some examples to get you started include:
“I understand how you feel, but that’s not my experience.”
“What you’re saying is really harmful, here’s why…”
“I’m both Black AND white. I refuse to deny myself either aspect of my heritage.”
“I understand I have light-skin privilege, but that doesn’t negate my Mexican heritage.”
“What does it hurt you if I claim my Chinese heritage?”
“I can see that you have no interest in understanding my perspective. I won’t continue this conversation with you.”
“If you continue to speak to me in this way I’m going to leave.”
Remember the context we live in
We live in a racist and segregated society by design. As a result, it’s very common for people to live in an “us vs. them” mentality.
In the context of the US, the one-drop rule was used during slavery to classify mixed race people with at least one Black ancestor as “Black.” Categorizing them as such made them legally enslavable.
It also set a precedent in our society for generally labeling people as one or the other, which many people still buy into today. Of course, now they use it to their own convenience, not necessarily abiding by the literal classification detailed in the one-drop rule.
It makes sense if this makes you extremely angry. I invite you to check in and explore what’s beneath the anger. For me, there’s a lot of grief and sadness that this is the way things are. That history still haunts us, that racism is built into our policies and systems, and that we all carry the trauma of racism deep in our bones.
Consider the lived experience of the person criticizing you
This might feel like too much emotional labor sometimes, but after you've given yourself plenty of time to feel your own feelings, try to think about the person's identities and lived experience. How might that shape their perception, and more important, their emotional landscape.
For many of us, the burden of white supremacy is one that we carry in more ways than one. Building on what I shared in the previous section, it’s important to remember that aligning oneself with ideals shaped by white supremacy (or the impact of it) is a way that people stay safe.
What I mean by that is that criticizing you might be a way that someone is acting out their own racial belonging. If they can put you down, it further solidifies that they are in the group and you are out of it.
Again, this brings up both anger and sadness for me.
Practice in community
This can feel like a lot to manage on your own. Having relationships where you don’t have to defend yourself is really important. And having space where you can process these things and strategize how to deal with them can be a game changer. If you want support processing your feelings about these experiences or practicing stating your boundaries, I can help.
There are a few ways we can work together:
Individual Therapy: I support mixed race clients on a number of issues. I’m a trauma specialist by training, and help my clients not only reshape their lives in the face of racialized trauma, but other sources of trauma as well.
Individual Coaching: Coaching is targeted support focused on identity and belonging, and is open to anyone regardless of location.
Mindful Mixer: A free monthly event where we come together and practice mindfulness in community. A great opportunity to meet other mixed people and feel validated in your shared experiences.