Jaclyn Holmes is currently studying to get her bachelor’s degree in communications. She is a fellow blogger who frequently writes about her experiences and revelations she has made through her journeys in life (Jaclyn Lee). Jaclyn seeks to make connections with those whose voices have not been heard and create a space for them. She desires to speak out for those who feel as though they do not belong.
Out of Place
All my life, I have felt out of place.
I was brought up all over the country. In fact, I have a hard time saying that Lansing, Michigan is my hometown because we moved around as a family so often until we decided to settle there. My dad served in the Air Force for about 23 years, so I grew up as a military brat. I was born in Wichita Falls, Texas but when I was 10 months old, we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
My parents still have home videos of me taking my first steps in their quaint Japanese apartment. Travelling, in a sense, led me to new chapters and to take new steps (quite literally). It instilled a belief in me that there is so much out there in the world to explore.
After living in Japan for a few years we moved to North Dakota (2000), Texas again (2004), and finally Lansing (2006-present).
My siblings and I were always the new kids in schools, and not only that, but we were the new mixed kids in school—we stood out like sore, tan thumbs (as my brother said humorously one time). It is interesting looking back because I was already different from many of the other kids in school, but I decided to push past our ethnic differences and try to make as many close friends as possible. All 3 of us were out of place, but we worked so hard to make a place for ourselves among our peers.
Once we settled in Michigan, Lansing became my home. We are surrounded by family from both my mom and dad’s sides, which has helped in experiencing white and black culture. They were a safety net to me—people who would stand up for me if I ever faced adversity.
As early as I can remember, we always attended church as a family. However, we were all across the board in the kinds of churches we attended. One week we would attend the local Catholic church’s mass, the next week we would attend the Protestant church’s service. And every once in a while when I was young, we would visit a Baptist church. Even in my faith, I did not find a church or denomination where I felt like I belonged or was “at home”. I am perfectly content with saying I am non-denominational, because I am, but I think it also reflects the overall feeling of being insecure in whatever place I am in—whether it is a church, a classroom, or a crowd.
My childhood revolved around travelling, so I developed a love for learning about different cultures. We hosted multiple foreign exchange students who are from Korea, Germany, and Kyrgyzstan. My cultural makeup was already diverse, but all of a sudden I wanted to learn as much as I could about other cultures. I felt like a sponge trying to retain all this knowledge about different cultures, while still trying to understand myself (or what my culture is) all at the same time.
When I was little, I wasn’t fully aware of my racial identity or what it meant. For those who don’t know, I have a white mother and black father, but I have a very light skin tone (as well as my brother and sister)—so I can “pass” in white culture, but at the same time, white people can tell that I’m different . I am generalizing, but white people tend to attribute my blackness to an “exotic” look, and black people tend to not question why I have such a fair complexion.
As I got older and my brother, sister, and I attended small private schools, it became very clear to us that there were barely any minority students. In interactions with some of my white friends, I quickly became their “black ally”. I was, and still am, their go-to person for advice or feedback on a current event involving a black person or other minority groups. They have good intentions, but I am not a spokesperson for all biracial young people or any minorities.
In the midst of everything we have gone through together—moving and growing up as a military family, we are very close. However, we siblings also have an unusually close relationship with our father. We are very close with our mother as well, but I’ve noticed that it’s not as common (or at least I hear from my peers) to have an equally close relationship with their dad. When many of my girl friends say they tell their mom everything, I say that I am close with my mother as well, but I tell my dad everything.
Although our dad didn’t teach us much about what it meant to be half black or the things we would go through because we are mixed, he always defended us. When I got strange looks, he would give them the evil eye right back. Or when people made ignorant comments, he stood up for me. Time after time I would doubt my inner voice telling me someone’s comment wasn’t okay, but my dad always reassured me and said “No Jackie. It’s not okay”.
My perspective on my blackness has continued to change as I have matured. At this time in my life, I view it as something beautiful, but also painful at times. It allows me an “inside look” on two cultures. Despite the struggles I’ve faced, it gives me the opportunity to understand another beautiful culture from people who love and care for me.
However, I still feel some discomfort in my biracial identity. Some of it naturally comes from not fitting strictly into one category, which is wonderful, but can also feel extremely isolating. There is this feeling of simultaneously belonging to two groups, but also belonging nowhere and to no one. I am an outcast, and in some ways, I have come to terms with that. It will always be a lingering thought in my mind.
Despite the tears and inner struggle I have had with my identity, I am trying to use it to shape me. My blackness is a piece of me among many others, and I am still learning what it means for me and its implications. Even though I am still figuring it out, there are a few things I know for certain: 1) I want to be seen for the content of my character, and not just for the color of my skin (MLK paraphrase). 2) I want to be an advocate for those who feel out of place, and open arms to those who feel like no one understands. This is what I am striving for everyday.