“It was like something switched in my head…”
Edited by Thu Nguyen.
Transcript for You’re Not White
When I look back at a lot of things, I’m viewing them through a different lens, you know, and so I’m trying to absorb everything I can from those vivid memories and so I appreciate everything–the good and the bad–because I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t experience those things.
Growing up in foster care was…is…very interesting. I had to move a lot to different foster homes. It was my younger brother and I. He’s two years younger than me. My mother kind of had struggles with substance abuse. So from that is why we went into foster care. Placements were initially supposed to be temporary. It’s not always easy to get a foster family to take siblings, even though the purpose it to try to keep them together. A lot of foster families intent on taking one, you know, child, and so when there’s two, it can be kind of taxing. Also, my brother is of a different race than I am, and so it was difficult to place us in a family where he was accepted, you know, and then I was accepted. And so it was difficult being that we were biracial because he looked more white and so when we were with white families, it was difficult for me and when we were with black families, it was difficult for him.
I remember one foster parent, in particular, she didn’t like my little brother. She had a huge bias against him looking more white than me. And so, it was hard because that was my little brother, but I learned so much from her and she was supposed to be our mother and protect us, but she treated my brother very badly. I didn’t understand that. I think that was my first…incident that really exposed what bias and prejudice and racism was. I didn’t realize I wasn’t white until I was probably 10 or 11. My mother is white and I don’t know what my father is. My foster mom actually told me–it was the same foster mom that kind of had some, you know, prejudice against my little brother, she said, “You need to understand, Tiffany, you’re not white.”
It was like something switched in my head, it’s like I immediately saw my skin color, I saw the texture of my hair and my facial features. I looked at my little brother and he didn’t look any different to me, but I think that was the first time I saw color. And it’s funny that I had that experience with my foster mom telling me: “Tiffany, you are a black woman,” and society and other people have perceived me throughout life, they don’t know how to understand me–they don’t know. I’ve had people pull me aside and say, “Tiffany, what, what are you?” You know, “We don’t know what you are.” I learned at a very young age that people have to know what you are and who you are so they can associate it with the level of respect and understanding to put to the interaction they have with you. Why can’t you just interact with me as a human being?
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