I am adopted. Both my mom and my dad are white. Both of my sisters are also white. My brother and I are from Ethiopia, and we have brown skin. I love my parents, my sisters, and my brother. Even though we don’t all look the same, we’re still a family. I live in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, an educated and diverse community. Although incidents of racism don’t happen very often where I live, there have been times when people have questioned whether we belong together.
Last summer, when I was walking around with my sister at a baseball tournament, we saw a boy about my age whose team I had just played. He came up to us and said, “Are you boyfriend and girlfriend?” We thought he was just being weird and said, “No, we are siblings.”
“You can’t be siblings. You are not the same skin color!”
That made me feel terrible. I guess because of where and how I have been raised, I did not realize people could be so foolish.
I went home and sat in my room, trying to read, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this incident. Why do people assume that people of different skin colors can’t be related? The more I thought about it, the worse it made me feel, but it also made me think how lucky I am to be mostly surrounded by accepting people who know that I belong.
Believe it or not, this same thing has happened to me several other times: twice at school, twice at baseball tournaments, and even once walking down the street to the grocery store. (That time, it was actually a neighbor.) Usually, it is kids that make assumptions about my family because they just don’t know any better. Once when I was in kindergarten, we had a substitute teacher. At the end of the day, my mom came to pick me up. When she came into the classroom, the teacher was hesitant to let me go home with her because we do not look alike. I was young so I don’t remember it very well, but my sister recently reminded me of this moment. I was shocked that a grown-up could think that.
These stories make me think about the importance of equality and community. Although people aren’t calling me a mean name or something, they make me feel like I don’t belong. When this happens I think for a while about the effects of racism. It makes me so sad, but at the same time happy that, for the most part, my classmates and friends understand that people of different skin tones can be family. In many ways my community is amazing. I hope that in our changing world people and communities can accept, welcome, and appreciate every variety of family.