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Learning and Unlearning: Decolonizing my Identity

Hey y’all! Ya got Rachel here, checking in! It’s our first time meeting and since you don’t know me (yet), allow me to introduce myself. I am Rachel…

leader | soft spirit | companion | auntie! | creative | traveler | the loudest laugh in the room | twerker | plant momma | researcher | one with water | caremaker | enough

While I choose to introduce myself this way, I can also share that I am a bi-racial, adult millennial, heterosexual, cis-gender woman who was born in the Southern United States to a White mother and Black father. I present as racially ambiguous; never White passing, never Black passing.

I was born in Norfolk, Virginia, an area where nearly 50 percent of the population is White and nearly 50 percent of the population is Black (this has been and continues to be true). Myself and all other People of Color made up the rest of the less than 10 percent of population demographics.

At a young age, my father and mother separated, and I was raised in an apartment with my two younger brothers by my White mother and White half-brother (who was barely an adult at the time!). As a single parent, living in poverty, my mother also relied heavily upon her community to share in raising three young children. I was, then, raised by a small army of Christian women who cared deeply for my mother and who believed that it was God’s work for them to provide for me and lead me to His eternal love and grace. And while I do have memories of certain Filipina ‘aunties’ feeding and staying with me, these were in large part White women. To say that my caretakers reflected my multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural truth would be a gross overstatement.

My early years were spent in Christian churches. The churches, and church members, were critical to my survival. This community influenced the formation of my identity, values, and relationships to self and others. At the center of my worldview was the Church–and I was revolving around it. The Church taught me values such as love, forgiveness, and humility, but I also learned right from wrong, guilt and silence. I learned that certain people (adults, leaders, preachers, evangelists, pastors, prophets) had the authority (read power) to affirm if the actions of myself and others were good or bad in God’s eyes. I learned that the confession of bad was inherently necessary to receive forgiveness and that certain people had the authority to pray and affirm that forgiveness. I saw how to perform the values I was taught (I still hold love, forgiveness and humility dearly) and learned to reenact the performance.

In a city that equally reflected the two parts of my racial identity, one might hope that one of those certain people was Black. But as is true in so many parts of our society, that just wasn’t true. So, I also learned that those in authority are (and should be) White. This idea was reinforced in my schools and home life.

Let me take a pregnant pause riiiiight here…

Some of you might be reading between the lines of what I’ve shared so far, but let me make it explicit. Yes, I was surrounded by White people who I relied on for both survival and a sense of belonging. But I was also surrounded by White culture. And if that needs further defining, this