Recently I went to the movies to watch a horror flick that apparently had great appeal for high school students. They easily filled the first 15 rows of the theater. Since I was in the burbs I was not surprised to see mostly white kids fill the seats. Just a couple rows in front us sat 8 girls, all white, until a black girl plopped into the last seat in the row. I noticed her because she had the cutest little cut I've seen on a girl her age. And though there was little else that made her stand out, I could not help but think of all the times I was her- the only black girl in the row. So, this is for all the "onlies" at the end of the row.
To the only black girl in her school batting away swinging ponytails while combating a limited retelling your her-story choosing to begin with slavery rather than your Motherland. To the only Latina on campus who thinks in another language, constantly making translations in your head. To the only Asian girl always assumed to be from somewhere else, somewhere far. To the only Indian girl whose name reflects her parent's fears of a future of discrimination. To the only Native American girl whose image of self is hidden behind stereotypical mascots of male faces. To the only biracial girl in the neighborhood who is always bracing to hear the question, "What are you?" May you know that your history is vast, your language beautiful, your home here. May your full name embody your full self. May you know stories of significance, of wonder, of greatness that look just like you. May you know that you are a who.
To the only Latino boy who must be present at the parent/teacher conference- the constant mediator, translator, teacher and learner. To the only Asian boy who must explain his "funny" eyes. To the only black boy already considered the mean one, the violent one. To the only First Nation boy who is laughed at for his long hair, who is asked to cut it off because it's distracting for others. To the only Middle Eastern boy whose place of worship was threatened last week, last month, last year.To the only multiracial boy in the class who has to explain his parents, his siblings, his family- even to adults. May you know that your ability is a skill not a tragedy. May you reject the notion that different equals strange. May you create titles that you are comfortable wearing and throw away the rest. May you never apologize for being distracting, for perhaps that's exactly what's needed to break up the monotony. May you worship in peace. May your answers be simple and sarcastic and knowing.
To the only Indian child whose culture is ignored until the moment it is misunderstood and back again. To the only Hispanic child who must split the world in half- home and everywhere else- whose two worlds reside within you, but often nowhere else. To the only black kid at the mall with your white friends who must resist the urge to explain to passersby that you have black friends, too, that you are not losing yourself, that you do not need to be found. To the only First Nation kid who carries the weight of the ancestor's pain, the ancestor's tears. To the only two Asian students in the school who are constantly confused with one another, despite the sea of other same race faces. To the only Asian child whose neighborhood is considered a tourist attraction for the masses. To the only ethnically ambiguous children who will never fit neatly and nicely into the racial boxes America has created, who must dig deep to find reconciliation within themselves. May you choose when to give voice. May you find the intersection that works for you. May you lose yourself in the moment feeling no need to explain. May you embody the strength the ancestors displayed, embrace the uniqueness of your face, enjoy the richness of your culture. May you lead the way.
To all the Onlies of all races, all colors all combinations who are quirky, colorful and constantly changing: may you find that you are not monolithic- that your version of 'us' is nothing short of brilliant. May you know that you are lovable, incredible, fearfully and wonderfully made. May you find special ways, among special people to let your culture breathe.