This is funny because I was talking to my friend G about our cultural roots. G identifies as Asian (He’s a first generation American with parents from India). I am mixed race. We both talked about how we are critiqued for not acting our culture or performing it in terms of performance identity.
I know my roots. I am proud to be multi-cultural. When I teach ethnic Studies, I teach that our identities are seen through different spheres (culture, territory, body, gender and sexuality). In a perfect world, you can juggle all these spheres and they work in harmony, but what happens is that they rub up and grind against each other.
When this happens, people tend to reject their sphere that is restricting against the others. When this happens, I think of the Chris Abani poem “Faith.”Proof that an elastic band returns faster than its outward stretch.
The more you reject a part of you, the more what is important to you comes back. I rejected my ethnicity and religion at one point in my life, but now I am proud of my heritage. I am a Kundiman fellow and I embrace the different racial and cultural identities I have. I am still working on my faith structure but I feel comfortable.
I rejected my sexuality for a large part of my life and now I am an active member and activist within the community. I can go into my writing. You see, I used to write fiction but I write poetry now. My work is very lyrical and narrative. This is why I have difficulty breaching experimental poetry, only if it has a narrative arc. It’s something that I pull from, but I go back to it because it’s just how I was structured and how I choose to keep performing as a writer.
I know my roots because I know who I am is essential to my identity, but I can also construct it and perform it as the need arises. What about you? What are your roots as a person? Do you think they changed? Are you different today than you were last year or the year before that?