Friday, September 13, 2013

Kassiane A. Sibley's Open Letter to Identity Police (Part 1)

Dear Identity Police, I have had it with you. My whole life people have been defining me based on their own prejudices, preconceptions, assumptions, reliance on stereotypes and simplifications. I've been nice and put up with it to varying degrees my whole life, but not any longer. I am out of patience. Strangers, near strangers, you don't get to tell me who, what, how I am. That's backwards. I define me. You define you. Get it right.

[Visual image: many hands raised, all sorts, under a large caption, "get it right."]

I am biracial. Hapa. Hafu. Eurasian. Eastern European and East Asian. Mongolian, Romanian, Japanese, Croatian. Unacknowledged on a demographic form.

No more of this “but you look white!” My freckles and my eyelids do not define my heritage. I know that's what you're basing that assertion on, freckles and eyelids. The forests of Croatia and mountains of Transylvania are the landscape of my soul, but so are the steppes of Mongolia and coasts of Japan. I am the spitting image of all of my ancestors and none of them. I am of the horse people, of the fisherfolk, of the nobility, of the miners. My ancestors came here to keep their heritage for me and were interned or had to change their names or sign up for wars to prove their loyalty. I am equal parts “Croatian duke who torched his estate in support of the French revolution” and “clan called 'soul on fire'”. I have done gymnastics and I have learned the manly arts.

All of this is part of me, my history. You don't get to tell me that things are irrelevant because you find my eyes too wide, ignoring my grandfather's cheekbones beneath and my grandmother's hair above. Hard work, conviction, burning passion, that runs through my veins on all branches of my family tree. How dare anyone tell me half those branches don't count? Who are you to glance at me and erase half of my deep history based on stereotypes and ignorance?

You don't get to tell me who and what I am. I do. And my soul is on fire, my will is made of steel, I endure endure endure, and I will do big things for what is right. My heritage, my identity, are more than what you can discern from a glance.

You may not tell me where I come from, identity police. That is not your jurisdiction.


  1. Hi, This is pretty awesome. Because I'm parts and pieces and people don't believe me when I tell them I am not just caucasian.

    And this is beautifully written.

  2. Awesome. Well done. And all that jazz. I do not buy that all Jews are white, and am tired of fighting it.

    1. I'm thinking the hundreds of thousands of phenotypically Black Ethiopian Jews would agree with you :)

  3. Hey, so this is beautiful, and I keep coming back to it. Because it really is absolutely, positively beautiful. Thank you.