May 29, 2020

Photo by Tess on Unsplash

Hello, my name is Karen and I suffer from imposter syndrome.

Most days, I don’t feel like part of the black community.
Ridiculous, I know, but I am being honest here.

Perhaps some background will help.
I was born in Japan and adopted into a white family.
A white family that didn’t really acknowledge that racism was a problem.
I lived in an entirely white community.
(okay, there was one other black family but they kept to themselves).

My oldest brother recently told me that he was concerned when I was younger because I almost seemed racist…against black people.
Because, what I was told was that we were dirty.
“Always in trouble”.

When I was a teenager we moved to St.Catharines two days before grade 9.
It was tough.
There I faced a struggle that literally “split me in two.”
Students from my high school (high end white academic) did not accept me initially because I was “black”.
But the black community did not accept me because I sounded “white”.

And that was the day I became neither.
And that’s where I’ve been stuck until today.
Some sort of teen purgatory.

I had been told, in not so many words, that I didn’t belong anywhere.
Except in the in-between.

It was easier to be the butt of the joke.
To laugh when people noticed my frizzy hair.
To point out my difference before others had the chance.

This week, I was convicted.
This week, I realized that I couldn’t be silent.
(I know…I’m a slow learner).
Or stand on the sidelines.
Or let others speak for me.

I realized that yes, my life is different and unique.
But because of that, my voice is unique.
And it needs to be heard.

I’m certain there are others who are living in the shadows, just like me.
Who need to step out.

You may have been told “You don’t belong in this arena.”
Or, “Don’t rock the boat.”
Or, my favourite, “Why be so sensitive? It’s not that big of a deal.”

I’m here to tell you, no.
That’s not true.
You belong.
Your voice matters.

Let me repeat that for the people in the back.
Your voice matters.

My voice matters.
My writing is fraught with racial struggles of black people.
But my life does not always speak of that.

I have always struggled to connect myself to my black ancestors.
When with others of my own race I felt…
afraid that I would say the wrong thing.
Afraid that they would see right through me.
While also feeling like I’d come home.

But it wasn’t others holding me back.
Keeping me on the sidelines.
It was me.
My fear.

So today I am making a declaration.
I am done being afraid.
My voice will matter.
It will be counted.
Even if my photos are not instagram pretty.
Or my words are muddled.

My name is Karen.
Fear will not rule over me.
I will not let what others think control me.
I am a black woman.
I am not perfect but I’m proud of my heritage.
And I want to share that with my children.

My voice may not be loud.
My lineage not “pure” in other people’s eyes.
My platform not huge.

But I will no longer be silent.

~ This post is dedicated to Masozi who claims that she learned so much from me but who has taught an old gal new tricks. I’m so glad we can walk this path together. Thank you.



13 thoughts on “May 29, 2020”

  1. I love love LOVE this. Funny how the devil wants to make us feel like we don’t belong in some way. Being raised without a mother, I felt like a freak as a kid. After all, as one kid from school relentlessly pointed out, EVERYONE has a mother. Everyone, that is, except me. But I have found my place, too. And I managed to raise a daughter despite my lack of an example. We belong. We belong to God’s heavenly family as mixed up as it is and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In our weakness, He is strong. God bless you, Karen! You are loved!

    1. I’m sorry that you lived in the “in-between” as well. Yes, I believe that it applies to so many different people. And when we are stuck there we can’t use our God given gifts to their full potential. What a blessing to be part of the family of God. But as a family I believe it’s important to discuss these things. Realize that so many of us wear these wounds and carry these burdens silently. Thank you for your loving heart. ❤

  2. I love, love, LOVE this! Funny how the devil wants to make us feel like we don’t belong. As a kid, I felt like a freak for not having a mother. Kids liked to remind me that EVERYONE has a mother. But, I have found where I belong…to God’s heavenly family of misfits. He is all the stronger in our weakness. So I’m glad for it. Bless you, Karen…my sister. You are loved.

  3. Love this.

    It’s interesting: I’ve spoken about race and what it means to be “black” or “white” around you and your family more than any other time. When everyone around you is pigmentally challenged, the subject doesn’t come up.

    Personally, I’m proud to have you for a twin. And I don’t care that you’re Canadian.

  4. I think that this is positively brilliant, Karen, for many reasons, and a great title. I have felt an imposter for other reasons other than skin colour. My sister and I went for a drive a few summers ago wandering and visiting some of the many places where we lived. We were born in England, lived in Scotland then we came to Canada when we were preteens and then moved a lot. It was an awful time to move for we ended up not fitting in wherever we went. We were bullied and laughed at for ‘talking funny’ and other things. We often wondered how it was that Mum and Dad thought we would be better off coming to Canada. As kids, we weren’t better off. We felt like imposters for years! That said, Canada is an amazing place to live and now I love it and call it home. But we all struggled. So I understand a little of that imposter feeling. And, Karen, I have to say, when I think of you I have to say that I don’t think of you as my black/white/brown/whatever friend. I think of you as one of the nicest, kindest, honest God-loving, hard-writing, people I’ve met, and your smile is what I remember the most. May I share your post? People need to hear the heart of a black woman born in Japan and raised in a white family. How beautiful and how more beautiful that you claim your black heritage and teach your children well. Shine on, friend! x

    1. Glynis, thank you for your comment. I would agree, many of us feel like imposters. No matter what colour our skin or what our background is. And thank you for the thoughtful words. I have such fond memories of you and Write! Canada. I always enjoy your posts as I can see your strength and humour in them. You are more than welcome to share the post with others. I pray that it may bless them no matter what their walk in life. ❤

  5. You may not remember me. We both went to Redeemer. I somehow stumbled on your blog. We are raising a black son and it was so good to hear your voice here. Thank you for sharing and in doing so encouraging me to keep on trying to have my precious son know his culture.

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