I often get asked, "what race are you?" A smile comes over my face because the answer confuses people more than it helps. I look at them and say, “I don't know.” They often look like a dog with their head tilted and ask, "how do you not know?” This leads to a conversation they aren’t prepared for.
I've lived on this earth for 34 years and I still have no idea what my race truly is. I’m about to find out soon because I’ve received a DNA test from my aunt for my birthday but I still haven’t provided a sample yet. I think I prefer the mystery.
A funny thing happens when you grow up without a race, it doesn’t become important. I’ve even talked about it onstage during my comedy and the fact that while everyone else has a group I’ve always just been Chris. I’ve had no pressure to represent a group, I don’t know how “we” do, and I don’t have a stereotype other than the ones I create for myself. It is a freedom that I wish more people could have because it has shown me that race is the least important thing about a person.
Humans and their obsession with race are endlessly fascinating. I understand the history of it in this country but why focus on it all the time? It builds resentments that are based on a history that shouldn’t be attributed to people of today. I prefer to judge people on what they themselves do versus what their ancestors did.
There is an old saying by Gautama Buddha that says, “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I think always hanging on to the past is a similar thing. I’ve learned recently to let my own past go. I could be angry about it and how unfair it was. I’ve decided to let the past be in the past.
Here is a brief history of me, I was born addicted to heroin weighing 1 pound 7 ounces. I nearly died several times during my birth and I was lucky to hang on. I guess I’ve always been a fighter because I lived. My mother didn’t learn her lesson and she continued to use the first 8 years of my life except the last year when after getting me back for the last time finally quit heroin. I can still remember the smell of heroin when it is cooked by a lighter on a spoon. The sickly sweet smell as it bubbles like some sort of witches brew.
We were often homeless, living on random people’s couches or in their living room roaming from place to place never knowing where we would be next. When my mother got her act together long enough to have a place to live we wouldn’t stay long and we’d often leave in the middle of the night forced to abandon our possessions. Finally, that practiced left us on the streets living in a car. I’d beg with my mother for food and the simple joy of tacos was what kept me going.
I’ve lived with all types of people and my mother taught me to never judge others based on what they looked like just on how they treated you. In order to get us off the streets my mother turned to prostitution to make enough money so I could have a place to live. It worked but she was arrested and I was sent to live with a foster family for awhile.
When my mother was released from jail she knew she had to get her act together and worked hard to clean up her act and got me back from the foster family I was staying with. She promised me things would be different and they were. I saw life in her eyes like I had never seen before. Then on December, 28th, 1992 my world was changed forever. She had a grand mal seizure and passed away in her sleep. I was 9 years old, and I can still remember my step father coming into my room in tears to break the bad news to me. When someone dies people bring you food even though you have no desire to eat. I’ve never understood that.
I could have been angry and blamed a lot of people for the life I’ve had but I choose to move on with my life and be grateful for the good times I did have with my mother and the small victories I’ve had in my life.
I’ve said all of that to mention that while we can’t change what happens to us we can change how we let it affect us. I don’t care what race you are because I know that we are all complicated and messy human beings with problems unseen to the naked eye. All of us has had something happen to us that has profoundly changed the way we interact with the world and no one else can truly know each individuals experiences but that doesn’t matter. We all want the same basic things life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all need to be free to find those things and focusing on the outer shell is the most useless way to find it. You have the power to change your own life, no one else can do that for you.