Ilsa Levine Norman, age 26
WHAT MIX ARE YOU?
Mother’s side: 1/4 Japanese, 1/8 Irish, 1/8 Welsh
Father’s side: Jewish so Hungarian, Russian, Spanish
WHERE DO YOU CURRENTLY LIVE?
IS THE COMMUNITY YOU LIVE IN NOW DIVERSE?
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
Until I was 14 I grew up in Marin County, a suburb of San Francisco. It was somewhat diverse – a high Jewish population. I didn’t realize Jews were a minority until moving to Texas. At 14 I moved to Dallas, TX with my family. The community there was much less diverse than Marin. I remember being told very explicitly that I wasn’t white by a boyfriend’s family member.
HOW DID YOUR PARENTS MEET?
They met working a corporate job in Los Angeles.
WERE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES IN THEIR RELATIONSHIP CORRELATED TO YOUR BACKGROUNDS?
Both of my parents were outsiders in their own spheres growing up. I think that’s part of the reason they connected initially. Both of them experienced a ton of prejudice in different ways. My maternal grandfather had some warming up to do to his new son-in-law but ended up really liking him.
HAS YOUR EXTENDED FAMILY ALWAYS BEEN SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING MULTIRACIAL/BIRACIAL?
No. When my maternal grandfather married a Japanese woman all of his kids came out looking pretty different from their cousins. They were much darker and had different features. Our little side of the family were initially considered very much the black sheep. All the grandkids now are proud of our multi-racial background.
DID YOU CELEBRATE TRADITIONS FROM BOTH SIDES OF YOUR FAMILY?
No – both of my parents lost a ton of traditions when they were growing up.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR CULTURAL BACKGROUND?
Food! Japanese food is the best. I love some of the Jewish traditions as well. We didn’t celebrate them as a family but we’d sometimes go over to extended family or friends places for Friday night Shabbat dinner. The Jewish culture is so wonderful about prioritizing family and relationships. I’m thankful for that.
DID YOU TALK ABOUT RACE A LOT IN YOUR HOUSEHOLD WHEN YOU WERE GROWING UP?
DO YOU IDENTIFY AS MIXED OR SOMETHING ELSE?
Mixed brown race
DOES RACE WEIGH INTO WHO YOU CHOOSE TO DATE?
It hasn’t. I have dated men from all different backgrounds. My husband is white and I’m excited to see our mixed babies!
WHAT DOES BEING MIXED MEAN TO YOU?
There’s no category I fit into. I think it can also mean that I’m unique and have to create celebrations for a different kind of background.
DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO ARE MIXED?
I have friends from all different backgrounds. Celebrating people for race other unique attributes is always a good thing.
ARE THERE ANY COMMENTS YOU ARE REALLY TIRED OF HEARING FROM PEOPLE IN REGARDS TO RACE/CULTURE?
Ha – this happens less and less but as I kid everyone just asked me if I was Mexican. Americans have a tendency to group all brown skinned people into one race. We should probably consider other cultures with darker skin as well.
WHAT IS YOUR DREAM FOR THE FUTURE OF AMERICA IN REGARDS TO RACE?
Celebrating uniqueness and not using race as a way to group people, label people, or isolate people.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?
At the end of the day – we are the most judgmental of people who seem distant. I love that about this blog because we get to hear the stories of people from all different backgrounds. While there are many unique traits in all of us – I hope these kinds of platforms also show us how similar we are. We are humans and our deepest and most basic need is connection and relationship. Would we get to know the people who seem scary or different and realize the humanity in us all. My hope is that we can learn to love people and realize we are not that different.