Vanilla

My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t end there.
At least that’s what I would chose to believe.
-Barack Obama

Roots. The quirky middle man between the seed that breathes us into existence, and the life existence that we grow on our own. One cannot exist without the other. We can change and shed our leaves, morph our colours and grow taller through experiences. But, unearthing our roots is never an option.  We can love, hate, deny or embrace them, but our roots are permanent, stuck firmly in the earth, shaping the foundation of the story of who we will become.

If my roots had a flavour they would be vanilla, and not the fancy artisan kind.

I’m talking white. Basic. Boring. Run of the mill. Press pause on excitement.

Vanilla.

Sometimes I really hate being vanilla.

There I said it. I hate the boring, vanilla feeling of being a privileged whiter than white girl from a first world country.

I will give you a second to roll your eyes at my white privileged, first world problems.

But hear me out.

I hate that my roots grow from a soil fertilized by a history of people who conquered the world by climbing over the backs of others. I despise that the leaves of privilege that I have so easily inherited, were sourced and watered by the killing, enslaving, conquering, and general deforestation of other people and cultures thought to be less important by those who came before me. I loathe that my ancestors grew their power by either being guilty of these crimes, or worse complacent to those inflicting them. I regret that complacency seems to be inherited with the DNA connected with the whiteness of one’s skin. I feel guilty that I am undeservingly given the automatic privilege in life over those who have fought and suffered far more for the luxury.

I am intrigued by how often I have wanted to stretch, and reach, and grow beyond these roots. How often I have wanted to shed my white skin and privilege in exchange for darker skin and features, or a richer culture rooted in music that made me want to move, and food that excited my senses. By families and communities that danced together just because it was natural, and stood up for each other because they were bonded by the roots of the same forest. Most of all, I long to know how it feels not to be me, to have the awareness and experience of being on the other side of my own skin.

I am twisted between the skin that has given me all I could want in life, and the excited longing for a of a culture that feeds my soul and perspective. It feels like disrespect for what I have, and awareness of what I lack all in the same breath. As if privilege and culture were arch enemies, unable to co-exist in the same room at the same time. Like one of those chocolate vanilla swirl cones, two flavours coexisting, but not quite melting together.

As nature and ice cream would have it, I can not change my roots, or the vanilla seed that gave me life. However, I can choose the direction in which my branches and leaves grow and have a choice as to how the rest of the forest is impacted when my leaves, words, and actions fall. Lacking the experience, I crave is no excuse. The lens I look through is up to me, vanilla can either be pointed up towards the future fueled by change, or down towards the age old habit of complacency. I posses the power of humility to accept and forgive the past, but also the responsibility for the seeds I leave behind and what their DNA will be made up of.

I choose to pluck out the weeds of complacency and grow a new flavour of vanilla.

One sweetened with love and acceptance and fuelled on equality.

One where l start listening and boosting others on my back.

One that melts with chocolate.

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