The Forming of a Personal Cultural Identity — Part One: In the Beginning…

Let’s start with my story. My story tells how I came to come to the perspective that I have on life and the world around me. Of course my story begins with my early childhood and the things I saw and heard back then.

I was born and spent the first few years of my life in rural southern Oregon. I still have disjointed memories of my white hippy mother in the kitchen or the garden and my dark skinned father going off to cut trees for his lumberjack job. In this isolated life on a small farm raising chickens, ducks, and pigs for food and with a horse in the pasture for riding is where my idea of the world began. This was a quiet beginning with mostly dogs and cats for company along with the farm animals and the occasional wandering porcupine (that I admired from a safe distance I assure you).

As an adult looking back, it is only now that I realize HOW isolated I was. My father and I were the only brown people I knew. There was only one other Black person I ever remember seeing and it was another Black man who was a friend of my father. I remember him because him and his family lived in a house shaped like a tee-pee and his kids’ “room” was a loft overlooking the living room. His family mirrored my own: Black man, white woman, mixed kids (except I was an only child at the time). This was the norm of my early childhood.  I knew that there were other dark skinned people in the world. I saw them on TV and in magazines; they just were not a part of my actual reality.

At the time when I was small, life was simple. It was simple because we were in the country and it was simple because I was so young and had not yet learned the negativity of life. I did not know that the world beyond the small house on the small farm in the small town was filled with a totally different way of viewing my happy little family and those like it. Some days I miss that simplicity of life.