Friday, March 8, 2019

Checking Boxes

The older you get the more forms you have to fill out. And they frequently have these "race" boxes on them—check the one that most applies. I hate those boxes. I am most grateful when the directions read "check all that apply." It's interesting how the first format forces us to only claim one thing, and the other acknowledges that we can be many.

Over my life, I have filled out all these forms in different ways. Sometimes I've marked "Asian/Pacific Islander." Sometimes I've marked "White." I am happy when I get to mark both, but it's still complicated. And there was a moment in my life when these darn boxes became a huge stressor in my life.

College applications.

Me and my dad's parents at my high school graduation.
I will be talking about them soon:)
I was a great student who wasn't the greatest test taker. Now, I wasn't terrible, but my ACT score of 24 wasn't "up to snuff" for schools with tough competition in applicants. I was bemoaning this to a friend, and her reply was quite surprising.

"Oh, don't worry! You can just check the Polynesian box and you'll get in."

This statement was jarring for me. I didn't really understand why at the time, but I would hear it repeatedly from other people who knew my background. Just check the box! Free admission! It was strange, since these same people didn't even believe me when I first told them. Now they were so certain I was that I could use it on my college applications.

I spent months trying to decide if I should really check that box or not.

On the one hand, yes, I had Maori heritage. On the other, I looked white. There are a lot of other complicated things that I felt but didn't have words for at the time. I think many view diversity in college as "taking spots of more qualified just to fill a quotient." But I didn't see it that way—I didn't want to take the spot of a Pacific Islander who might have needed it? It's still hard to explain, but I think I felt like I had already been set up for success. But then that sounds like I'm judging others who might "need that spot."

Ultimately, I chose not to check the box.

I don't know what the right choice was to this day. But that was the choice I made. I didn't feel like I "deserved" to check that box for whatever reason. I wasn't allowed, not when it came to something so big. Because I didn't really belong, did I? All throughout my life to that point, people hardly believed when I spoke about my heritage. How was I supposed to explain it all through college, too? It was time to just accept that white box.

It turns out I got into that competitive school anyway. No scholarship or anything, but I got in to Brigham Young University (the LDS school of LDS schools). My parents agreed to pay for my first year. I would live at home, get a job, and save up for the next year.

So we went to campus to have lunch with Uncle Vernon, who worked in the Dean of Students office at the time. It was nice to catch up with him and we talked of my grandmother and how things were when Vernon first started school in the states. It was nice, and it helped me feel a bit less nervous to start the big adventure of university and being a baby adult.

My parents brought up the question of where to find a job on campus, and this was where things got weird for me.

"I have just the thing," Vernon said. "We'll go right after this."

I expected Vernon to take me to the job listings, but instead he marched me and my parents down to the Multicultural Student Services office. My eyes grew wide as we walked in, because I had always been told I didn't belong there (until it came time for college applications...).

Everyone greeted Vernon with smiles and hellos, as he had once worked in that office. My heart raced as people looked at me. Surely they wondered why he would bring me there. Surely they thought this was as wrong as I did. Vernon sat me and my parents down in an office with a woman named Lynette. He told her I was his cousin and that I liked to write—I might be a good fit for the magazine.

Then he left us there to go back to work.

Lynette was intimidating, but also I could tell she was someone who might teach me a lot about work and life. She told us about Eagle's Eye magazine, the student-run publication they sent out for Multicultural alumni. It was a program funded by grant money, to give multicultural students real world skills in publishing. We would write articles, interview alumni, go to multicultural events to report on them, edit and design the publication, and all that jazz.

It legit sounded like the best job I could ever dream of having in college. Up until then I pictured working in retail or being an early morning janitor on campus.

"I rarely take on freshman," Lynette said. "But this is how you apply. There are still two weeks before applications close."

"Okay." I took the application, and we left.

My parents were thrilled and thought I should apply right away. They went on and on about how it was a great opportunity and so perfect for me and all I wanted to do. I nodded though a pit was forming in my stomach. I couldn't apply for this. I shouldn't. I didn't belong in an office like that when I looked the way I did.

I dragged my feet over putting together an application and portfolio. Finally, my parents noticed, and I had to come clean about how I felt. I wanted that job. But I felt like I could not apply.

My mother looked sad, but she said the exact thing I needed her to say, "How would your grandmother feel hearing you say that you don't belong there?"

I knew what Grandma Dorothy would say, even though it had been 10 years since her death at that point. She would have done precisely what Uncle Vernon did—she would have marched me down there, and worse, would have declared my whakapapa to everyone there who was skeptical. She would have told me I was Maori because it was in my blood, and I shouldn't turn away from that part of me.

So I filled out the application for my grandmother.

I was so extra on my portfolio, sending my writing, art, and photography I'd done in high school. I nervously delivered the package to Multicultural Student Services for Lynette to look over. I figured that would be the end of it, because she rarely hired freshmen.

But I got the job, and that job shaped my college career and gave me friends and colleagues that would teach me and love me and help me grow into a better person. I still often felt like I didn't belong or was taking advantage, but in those times I remembered my grandmother and how proud she would be of me.

Me and my brother in Raglan, NZ.
That job brought many good things into my life, and ultimately connected my family back to New Zealand even more. My brother came to work at Eagle's Eye after I had graduated, and he met his wife there. She was half American, half Kiwi with dual citizenship. They moved back to Aotearoa and my brother got into med school at the university of Auckland. The full circle back to our roots began, my sister eventually moving there permanently after her Master's degree to live with her wonderful husband. They have just started med school, too.

So I took a job I was terrified to take, but that one choice brought about a series of events I'm so grateful for. My family has gone to New Zealand more than ever now that we have immediate family there. We have connected back to our heritage in a greater way than ever, and my sister-in-law has taught us so much more about our shared Maori culture.

One thing I quite love, and that is different from America, is that New Zealand doesn't do "percentages." There's no 1/16th or 1/2 or anything else. There is not a "percentage" that means you can qualify for things or not. There, it is whakapapa (genealogy) and tipuna (ancestors), it is knowing your legacy. This brings people in.

In America, it feels as if we are trying to push people out. We want them to check one box, though a growing number of people are from many backgrounds. While all of these lovely things were happening in my life, there were still not-great things happening as well.

A guy in my church group was studying agriculture, and he announced he was going to New Zealand on a work study trip.

"My grandma's from there! I'm part Maori!" I said, too excitedly. I had gotten comfortable around my diverse work environment, and I forgot momentarily that I wasn't there.

This guy literally laughed in my face. "No you're not!"

Like, not just a short scoff. A full on burst of extended laughter. Even after how far I'd come, that moment cut deep. But instead of sadness, this one garnered anger. "I am. There are a lot of Maori that look like me."

"No they don't."

"You'll see," I said. "And you'll realize what a total jerk you're being right now."

Me and my parents at my college graduation. The ones
that gave me such an interesting blend of heritage. (Maori,
Scottish, Polish, German to name a few.)
"Sure..." The guy went off on his trip, and I went on living my life. I got engaged during that time and was about one year away from finishing my degree.

The guy came back, and I planned not to talk to him at all. Soon I would be moving and I wouldn't have to see him again. But one Sunday, he came up to me. "I'm sorry, you were right. I was a total jerk. Now that I've been down there, I can see it in you."

I was stunned. This was the first time anyone had apologized for their doubt in my heritage. And it meant something that he could "see it in me" now. I choked out a "thank you."

He had seen the New Zealand view versus the American one. Allowing for all facets of one's identity, in comparison to only allowing one part to be dominant.

Another small moment comes to mind. It was about two years ago, when my husband and I were looking for an axe at a Lowe's. Yes, for real. We were planning to cut down the apple tree in our yard.  My husband wanted to use an axe because he's always had a love for dwarves. I was happy to go along. The older man helping us pick one had a familiar accent and an extensive knowledge of axes. I couldn't help but ask him, "Are you from New Zealand by chance?"

"Yeah," he said. "Glad you didn't say I was Aussie."

I laughed, well familiar with the rivalry between the two. "My grandmother was from there."

"Maori?" he asked.


"What tribe?"

"Ngapuhi," I replied. 

He smiled. "Me too. We're family."

This was said with warmth and welcome. He likely didn't know how much his simple acceptance mean to me—it was a rare thing in my life. But he knew. He understood what our shared history was.

"I just married in," my husband said jokingly. 

The man patted my husband on the shoulder, and in all sincerity said, "That means you're Maori now. Welcome to the family."

I had to hold back my tears in Lowe's. This was such a small and unexpected moment, but one of great revelation. I've spent my whole life worrying over what box to check, but the more I've learned the more I realize that the boxes don't matter to those who are part of you. I spent a lot of time self-conscious about what outsiders thought, forgetting that those who truly matter welcome me (and now my very blond and very pale husband and children) with no judgment. I don't need to worry about anyone else.

This is the fifth post in my series on being a white passing Maori in America. I do not speak for anyone but myself, and these are personal experiences I draw from. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Remnants and Revelations

There's a clear picture in my mind of my Auntie Leah and my mom using poi balls in Grandma's backyard. It was a searing hot day in summer, and laundry was drying on the metal tree out there. They spun the long poi with, what I saw as a young child, great skill. I was especially impressed with the one-handed, two poi, move where my auntie spun them as she moved them back and forth over her head.

I wanted to learn! And so they taught me the basics of the long poi. I was clumsy and not great, but I picked it up and used them often as a child. I didn't know any songs or official dances—I only knew what I'd been shown. The basics. The remnants of what our family had learned.

There were short poi. I didn't know how to use those (and they're freaking hard to use!). There were the sticks of the "sticks dances" that I saw in some performances but had never used. I learned some basic skills in a Polynesian dance class I took in college at BYU. Many of the students struggles to shake their hands as is traditional in many Maori song and dance, but I grasped it easily and felt like maybe it was in my blood.

The strange thing about being white passing, about being severed from the main body of your heritage, is that life becomes a series of "filling in the gaps."

Not the best example, but the only one I have. The sparse
trees I remember. (Also me at 5 days old.)
For instance, my grandma would always have my grandpa cut a ton of branches off the bushy Christmas trees of North America. I always wondered at their tree during the holidays, why there was so much gap between the tiers of branches. I once asked my mom why their tree didn't have a lot of branches, and the answer I got was "so we can see the ornaments." Which made sense and I didn't question further.

But when I went to New Zealand, I saw a strange tree that immediately reminded me of the way my grandmother would demand her tree to be cut.

"What are those?" I asked my brother, who lives in New Zealand now, as we drove from Auckland to Hamilton. "Those pointy, sharp trees?"

The Norfolk Island Pine, a sharp
silhouette in Aotearoa.
"Those?" my brother replied with annoyance. "I don't know the name but they're everywhere. I hate them. People use them for Christmas trees here and they just don't feel like Christmas."

I couldn't help but smile. "Really?"


"Grandma used to make grandpa cut her Christmas trees so there were big gaps in the branches. Makes sense now—she must have been picturing these trees as what her Christmases used to look like," I said.

My mother's face filled with understanding. "I never thought of that! But she might have, maybe without even realizing it."

It was a small, but beautiful remnant of my grandmother, driving through New Zealand and seeing these pines everywhere.

Other remnants and revelations aren't so sweet, though. I sometimes wondered why my grandma Dorothy didn't teach her own kids more about her Maori culture. Why didn't she teach them more of the language or insist they learn their culture more deeply?

It wasn't until the last couple years that I knew the Maori language was banned from schools for most of the 19th century.

Much like other colonized countries, the Maori were to "assimilate." That's what the Crown wanted, at least. Maori ways and language were looked down on, considered lesser, and were discouraged as a whole during my grandmother's time. As they were pushed off their land and into cities, the governments even place Maori families within white communities, in order to discourage them from reforming their own close ties. My grandmother likely didn't know much of te reo Maori herself. She might have only had remnants, living at a time when another culture was actively trying to eradicate the indigenous ways of Aotearoa.

It wasn't until the 70s and 80s that the Maori were able to regain some of their standing and rights through activism. I now imagine my grandmother's visits back to her homeland, and what she might have been learning herself for the first time during those pilgrimages.

It's these big and small pieces that come over time, and each one gives me a moment to feel closer to my heritage. Perhaps we were separated from it, but it never completely left us. And I see that in so many ways.

I have long known my mother's favorite colors are black, white, and red (she makes many a quilt in these colors). These are also very important colors in Maori tradition and I wonder if she latched on to them early on without knowing.

Traditional Maori storage building
and garden plot.
 I have always had this strong desire to garden and grow things. It probably has a lot to do with my grandpa Gene, whose garden seemed like paradise when we visited it. Rows of vegetables, trees and bushes and canes dripping with fruit. It seems whatever he touches grows.

But I never got to have a garden as a kid.

We lived in an apartment, and I still remember begging my mom to let me plant seeds in the sad plot of soil outside out front steps. I chose cosmos. The area was too shady and too undernourished for such a tall-growing, sun-loving flower—I was not met with success thought I tried very hard and got several seeds to sprout. They never flowered.

When we moved into our first house, I asked for a part of the backyard where I could grow things. I did not get my garden. Once again when we moved back to Utah, I asked for a spot in the backyard where I could grow things. I did not get my garden.

When I married, we moved to a townhouse where I tried over and over to grow things, though I had to lug water from inside to water all the things on my tiny patio.

The first spring in my garden. 
And then finally, after 11 years married, we were able to purchase a modest home with an epic yard. The garden boxes called to me. The fruit trees made my heart skip a beat. This was very much the garden of my dreams, a place I could finally get my fill of working the earth.

It's been a challenge and a trial, a joy and respite from the world's chaos. If you follow me at all, you have seen many pictures.

My sister-in-law told me it's a "Maori thing" to like growing plants. She said it's in my blood. I do believe that's true, even though no one in my immediate family likes yard work or gardens. Perhaps I didn't get the appearances, but there has always been something deep inside me that needs to plant things, that wants to care for the land that I have.

Maori have a deep, abiding respect for the land. Every iwi has sacred sites and locations—mountains, rivers, oceans. As I spent time in that land, I could feel a connection to it. It was spring when I was there, and I could not stop thinking about wanting to plant things. I wanted to see how they would grow in the soil that was laden with water in comparison to my own desert climate.

I see the legacy of our heritage in my daughter's epic pukana. In my siblings' quests to complete med schoo (my grandma wished to be a doctor, but could only be a nurse in her time). I see it when my family came together for my wedding and my Uncle Vernon brought people to sing. He made my new husband do a haka, which Nick was totally unprepared for though he handled it perfectly.

First haka lesson.
Clumsily dancing a hula I learned in my
Polynesian dance class. (I was too scared to
sing in Maori, which dancing comes with.)

While it might have seemed out of place to some, I was so happy my Uncle Vernon organized such a thing for me. He spoke of my grandmother (who was his sponsor when he came to the states), of her strong will and good humor, of how she helped him adjust to a land far away. He led the songs and helped me feel like my grandmother was there in spirit. She was there that night, I know it, watching on as we honored her memory.

My Uncle Vernon (uncle in the Polynesian sense, aka
related more distantly but who cares), speaking of
my grandmother at my wedding.
It has always been hard for me to let moments like this into my life, because I often feel as if I'm not allowed to (which will be the next post), but I am always glad when I ignore that negative voice and let it happen.

My mother would always tell stories of my grandmother bringing home strangers to feed at dinnertime. Of giving all she had even though she didn't have much. Of comforting and caring for the patients she nursed. This was the kind of deep generosity engrained in my mother from my grandmother, and some of it came to me (though much more of it came to my sisters...).

Even now, that is my standard. I have to make extra food if I'm serving a meal, just incase there are more to feed than expected. I have the impulse to give, unable to ask for money when many might (be it food from my garden, furniture, outgrown clothes, or writing critiques). Generosity is also a remnant, or perhaps the better word is legacy, of our family. Of the Maori, I believe.

This is the fourth post in my series on being a white passing Maori in America. I do not speak for anyone but myself, and these are personal experiences I draw from.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Seeing Wrong, Saying Something, Watching Nothing Change

Okay, here we go. Into the super uncomfortable parts of white passing!

I grew up in the Bay Area, Fremont for almost all of elementary, and then Brentwood (the northern one) for my early adolescence. I was surrounded with people who were different from me in religion, race, class, etc. It felt normal. I had friends from many backgrounds. 

Honestly, I felt more comfortable around people of color as a kid and teen. I didn't really know why, but it might be because of where I grew up and my Maori culture that seeped into me in ways I didn't realize (that's another post in the future). I felt at ease with them, at ease listening to them speak in a different language with their parents. Maybe it reminded me of my grandma singing in Maori. Those different languages and cultures represented love and comfort for me.

I remember there being some arguments or missteps on these differences (my Baptist friends constantly wanted to save my Mormon soul, for example), but I was taught early on from my family and at school that we could all respect each other. In 6th grade, I remember vividly my history teacher discussing every major world religion. It fascinated me, and the amount of respect in our classroom after was palpable.

I grew up in a small apartment in Fremont, in a questionable part of town at the time where we weren't completely poor but not really secure in finances either. Currently my old neighborhood is now top school and swanky? It's hard to reconcile when I remember the constant penis graffiti at the elementary they had to clean up, or the known drug house on the way to school, or the terrible case of a toddler being murdered just down the street. When my father graduated with his masters and got a good job, we moved to a very middle class place in Brentwood. I was comfortable in modest circumstances, in having enough but not more than we needed. 

So when I moved to Utah in 1998, I was not prepared for what was waiting in a more homogenous area (white, LDS, upper class). As I walked the halls on my first day of school there (indoor halls! what???), I was taken back by the sea of blonds, by the single shade of skin color, and even the strange way everyone seemed to have the same body shape (knobby tallness for the boys, elven svelte for the girls). 

Though I might have blended in more than ever before (except I was already far curvier than most), I had never felt so out of place. 

Kids made fun of my California accent and "beach clothes." They were great at immediately pointing out what made me different from them, from my interests in Anime to my outspoken manner to the different things I thought were important about our shared religion. They didn't know what to do with me—and I didn't know what to do with them. 

Because, though we might have looked the same, I was very different on the inside. 

For example, I had chosen drama for one of my elections that 9th grade year, and it was one of those classes with a laid back attitude. The teacher hadn't started class right when the bell rang, and kids chatted amongst themselves. I felt slightly out of place not only as the New Kid, but as a person who'd never been in drama and didn't like the spotlight. 

So I was keeping to myself, drawing like I usually did, when I over heard a conversation. 

"What do you call a Mexican who..."

I stiffened, shocked at the "jokes" that proceeded to come out of this boy's mouth. These sort of "jokes" would have gotten him a fist in the face at my old school. I had heard them before even—but they were almost always called out for what they were. Then he moved on from Mexicans to Jews. No one around me seemed upset. No one did anything but laugh. 

"Dude, that's racist," I blurted out, angry at how long everyone had let this go on. 

The boy looked at me in horror, as if I had mortally wounded him with my accusation. "It's just a joke, dude. Can't you take a joke?"

The mock surfer accent was not lost on me. 

"If it's so funny, would you say it in front of a Mexican person? Or a Jewish person?" I asked. 

He didn't have a snappy reply to that, and his face grew red. The whole class had grown quiet. I would have gone on chewing him out, but the teacher jumped in and decided to start class right then. She made no effort to correct anything, though she had to have heard the conversation. 

I wish I could say that someone learned a lesson from this, but I was the one who paid for speaking out. 

That kid I stood up to? He was mean to me for years after. Every class we had together, he would call me names and whisper about me to others. No one stood up for me. No one did anything. Finally, at some point in high school, I finally asked him, "Why do you hate me do much?"

"Because you were born," was his answer. 

It hurt, but looking back it makes me sad for anyone who was different in that area. Whether it was exaggeration or not, I feel like his reply was incredibly telling of the underlying current of the community I moved into. Of course it wasn't everyone, but there was an attitude, a set of "beliefs" that came with being an upper class white kid in a nearly all white community. Everyone patted each other's backs, telling each other they all earned what they had. There's this sentiment easily shared that if "others would just work harder and stop being lazy or degenerate..." There are many instances of the phrase, "I'm not racist, but..." followed by some terrible statement. 

I think that kid really did hate me because I was born—because I was born female in a misogynist society and I dared to stand up to him in public. To him, the "shame" I'd put on him was more than what anyone else would have to suffer ever in their lives, and he would make sure I paid for it. 

I didn't understand that at the time. It's taken years of adulthood and lessons from other people of color to make sense of what I saw as a kid. 

That's the weird thing about being a white passer. You see. You see racist stuff all the time, because you are coded as white on the outside and thus you are automatically "accepted" as someone who would agree with all the crap some can spew. 

But the moment you speak up, they know you're not "one of them." 

You might think this would cause change, but it doesn't. It only causes you to be isolated. You're a danger to the system. You don't comply with the code. 

And that was the thing—I knew if I spoke up, nothing would change. 

Maybe they stopped telling the racist jokes in front of me, but I knew they were still telling them in spaces where they thought it was "safe" to tell them. I could stand up until I was blue in the face, but I was one teen girl against a messed up system I didn't fully understand. 

Because I didn't fit in the system, nor outside of it, I have never belonged anywhere. Because as a white passer, you see the racism a lot...but you never experience it directly. 

You can't be in the white community fully because you can't comply with their assertions on a ton of things, and you make them uncomfortable when you let them know. And you can't be in your own cultural community in America, because you know it's true that you don't get the same judgment and persecution. It's like getting the benefits of white privilege AND the benefits of your heritage—and according to pretty much everyone that is not fair. (And even I myself feel like it's not fair, and thus I have an internal reluctance to embrace my heritage. Feels very much like having cake and eating it too.)

Another example: Anime was not a normal interest in late 90s Utah, let me tell you. And having that interest was another window into racism. I say a window, because once again I saw what people thought of Asians...but it was never directed at me. 

"You like Japanimation??" A kid would stretch his eyes at the sides. "Ching chong chang?"

Like, seriously. The levels of terrible are mind bending. This was just me as a blond girl drawing Sailor Moon fanfic. Again, I would say they were being racist. 

"It was just a joke, gosh." They would stomp off, never to speak to me again, but happy to do the eye stretch in the hall when they saw me. 

Always, always "just a joke."

Another another: "You have a crush on him? But your kids wouldn't look like you!"

Me staring blankly at the level of racism in the girl's assertion. "Uh, they would? And that's pretty racist..."

"No it's not! It's true!" Yet another person who would never be my friend or talk to me again.

When these things happened to me, they hurt, but I would always think of how much worse it would be if I looked Maori on the outside. Would I get random hula comments? Talk of coconut bras to double down on sexism and racism? I thought of my Vietnamese, Black, Latinx, Jewish friends in California and ached for how it would wound them so much more than me. I knew they would hear it like I had. I'd seen this my whole life, and I knew it was wrong, and I had no idea how to make it any better. Calling it out hadn't helped—I was alone in doing it, no one ever backing me up—so what else was there?

White passers don't have tools. And they don't have a full understanding when they're growing up. If their parents are white passing, too, there is often no one to give them context, to provide that other side of the story they feel but don't have.

I don't know about everyone, but it always left me lost. It left me trying and failing a lot. I had pieces that were right, and I still had the system of privilege teaching me lies as well (for example, I might have been sensitive to race because of my background, but I was utterly clueless about how homophobic my world also was and how much I had absorbed). I knew some things were offensive, but others slipped my grasp. Still, there were things I knew felt wrong, but I didn't have the words or experience to say why.

And yet, every now and then, there would be someone who would find me eating alone in the halls. 

They would come up to me and say, "Thanks for standing up to [insert name here]. What they said was terrible."

"You're welcome," I would say with a measure of relief. So it had mattered to someone. 

On my worst days, I would want to ask, "Why didn't you back me up?"

But I never did say that. Many of these people (not all) who thanked me were people of color. And I didn't fully understand it then, but now I get that they had a lot more to lose when speaking out as the very small minority (we are talking there was only one Black kid at my whole high school of 1500 students, and the others were in handfuls.). These students likely couldn't afford to draw any more attention to themselves.

It's still hard to talk about this stuff, because I know many will get defensive. I've seen it time and time again in my community. I don't want to make excuses, but I have come to learn that for every unapologetically racist person there is another who wants change and learn. And there is some genuine ignorance even still. There have been terrible moments like those I've given, but there have also been moments when I've said, "Um, so 'oriental' is now considered an offensive term, if you didn't know."

And the person turns bright red not with anger, but with embarrassment. "Oh, I had no idea. Thank you for telling me. I feel so bad!"

Because of my strange position as a white passer, I sometimes wonder if my appearance "softens the blow." I have learned since my childhood that telling a white person they are doing something "racist" never goes over well (even when it's true), but offering correction when they know me and know my background often brings a greater measure of reflection. 

Yet...I think people like me are frequently reluctant to offer advice or stand up, because we are so acutely aware that we are not experts, nor are we directly impacted like those in our culture who look as expected. I'm always stepping on toes, no matter where I go or what I do. I wouldn't say I'm fully used to it, but I have come to terms with it for the most part.

I wish I could say that all of this was in the past, in those long ago 90s, but I think we all know that isn't true. And even in my own writing community, I hear things that shock me at times. 

"Right now, you can't get published if you're white," said a writer in a small group.

My eyes went wide. I had thought everyone was welcoming of the push for more diversity, and yet again I was reminded that Utah has a long way to go. "I think that's far from true."

And I was right. People of color still make up less than 10% of children's authors. There's a whole study on these stats. But because of the visibility of the movement, people "see their spots being taken." 

Anyway, I admit I still don't know how best to traverse every situation, but I do know I have a unique perspective and I try my best. I think that's all we can do, even when it sometimes feels like nothing around us changes. Maybe I am viewed as unsettling or unsafe to the majority in my area, but I would rather be seen as a safe place for those who constantly go unheard. 

This is the third post in my series on being a white passing Maori in America. I do not speak for anyone but myself, and these are personal experiences I draw from.