It was trying at times returning to Honolulu, Hawaii (the city I was born) in the middle of my sophomore year of high school being a 5”10 blonde with green eyes and fair skin.
I mean trying to fit in when I was going through my awkward teenager phase, while also trying to make friends and experiencing my first multi-cultural living experience ever definitely made for an interesting time. It wasn’t until this point in my life that I ever really experienced culture or other nationalities of any kind. I know at this point you probably are thinking that that’s a negative thing – but based on how I was raised it really wasn’t.
My first day of class in Hawaii someone asked me “what I was?” and in my head I was like why does it matter, but I responded with “I’m white” to which the person prompted “but what nationality?”
That is when I realized I had NO IDEA. I went home that day and asked my parents and learned I was Norwegian. That being said, as I started to fall in love with the people of Hawaii and their different cultures, I noticed how their individual appreciation and feelings towards their specific cultures and backgrounds, also created barriers and underlying feelings of hate or dislike, which I had never been exposed to personally.
This then made me appreciate and reflect on the way in which I was raised – which was actually not see color, not because my parents were ignorant or cared to ignore the fact that people do identify with their backgrounds and cultures, but because those shouldn’t be reasons why you ever treat anyone differently, no matter what.
My mom had us involved in volunteer activities and outreach from as early as I can remember. She instilled in me a sense of urgency to help people who are less fortunate that wasn’t based on the color of their skin and to this day, I put so much effort and thought into the health and wellbeing of people as a whole.
As I look back, I think it is that humility my mother had that really never allowed my brain to give in to stereotypes.
Did I feel stupid that I had no idea where “I was from”? Yes, a little and I do think you should absolutely identify and appreciate where you are from, but it shouldn’t affect your outlook and views on other cultures and backgrounds.
Understanding the culture in Hawaii the way I do now, I do understand the need or the desire to ask that question, as it is a melting pot of some of the most beautiful cultures in the world. To me I didn’t need to know I was Norwegian to understand my culture, but it wasn’t until someone asked me that question and me having the experiences I had with different races and backgrounds in my sophomore year, that I appreciated where I was from and how I was raised.
My view from my experiences is that people tie their culture in so closely with only their ethnic background or roots, to me culture is solely tied to how I was raised, and that is that I am no different than anyone else around me. My actions, the choices I make and how I impact the world is the culture I have created for myself and what I hope to pass onto my future family.