Former La Portean offers views as “ethnically ambiguous” individual

Donavan Barrier

Donavan Barrier grew up in La Porte and graduated from Purdue Northwest in December 2019. He wrote for the Purdue Pioneer for a year and a half while also writing preview pieces for the Canterbury Theater, Footlight Player’s and La Porte Little Theater. Currently he works at WNIT-PBS in South Bend.

They say that ‘No Man is an Island.’ The phrase means that no man is completely self-sufficient. Whether he realizes it or not, he has a community or a ‘tribe’ to support him in every way. For me, that idea has taken on a slightly different meaning. In both a literal and metaphorical sense, I always felt that I was an ‘island’ — that I was always by myself and had no community sense. I had and still have friends and some biological family members that are really close to me. That I will not take away. But in this age of social justice and race relations, I mean that I have no community to belong to. In this sense, I feel as though I am that proverbial island.

To put it into perspective, I was born in Tamuning, Guam. On my father’s side, I am Chamorro (the indigenous people of Guam) and on my mother’s side I am white. My parents split before I was born and approximately four months after my birth we returned to the mainland United States with no future contact from my biological father. Growing up, whenever I explained my origins with anybody, I was always met with confusion followed up by innocent but insensitive and ignorant remarks. It didn’t help that I wasn’t born with naturally dark skin. Many people assumed that I was Mexican, Native American or, more closely, Hawaiian. Some even mistook me for being light-skinned black. Since I live in the Midwest where as far as I’m concerned the Pacific Islander population is quite small, the only person that I could ever relate to on an ethnic level was my twin brother.

It was for that reason that during my adolescence I took to the extremes to try to fit in. Since I didn’t fit neatly into the white population I went to the African-American population for help. I went through a phase where I adopted what I thought to be their mannerisms, their music and culture. In the end, however, what it brought me was ridicule. While I did have genuine friendships with some of my black peers, I felt as though I was that ‘token white kid’ that they kept around to make fun of and for good reason. I was playing a stereotype to fit in rather than trying to really form friendships. Try as I might I still couldn’t find that community that I longed for.

Over the last decade, I have seen multiple protests over prejudice inflicted on the black community. I do feel a sense of pride towards my peers for standing up to the system that has bogged down minorities for so many decades; however, there is an equal sense of being an outcast as well. Since I don’t fit neatly into the story that the world is watching in a way I feel that I don’t really have a dog in this race. I still stand for social justice and the equal treatment of minorities across the entire scope, but when I do I stand alone.

My ethnically ambiguous nature, on the flip side, has given me an interesting perspective. Because I haven’t experienced any kind of overt racism nor have I experienced the kind of belonging those of one ethnic group have I feel as though I can see both sides of the argument quite well. I can see why some of my peers have a problem with the current authority that has oppressed them while also understanding how some can feel unjustly treated because of how their ancestors treated others instead of how they themselves behave. It has also shielded me from any kind of negativity that those on both extremes might want to throw at me. While it certainly makes me feel somewhat alone, I do reap some benefits of being an ethnic ‘chameleon.’

While it is somewhat disheartening to feel the odd one out, I’ve made it this far without much of a hitch. The sense of belonging can sometimes be overwhelming but my closest friends and family help keep those feelings away. I still stand and forever will stand with those who are marginalized. I hope this article can give another perspective in this discussion.

12 Responses to “Former La Portean offers views as “ethnically ambiguous” individual”

  1. Andrew

    Jun 12. 2020

    As with these “peaceful protestors” claiming racial injustice, it’s not the evil white man’s responsibility to cater to you just because you feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you don’t feel like you fit in due to your own biases and maybe you should check yourself before telling other people how awful they are. WNLP has really jumped the shark.

    Reply to this comment
    • Staff

      Jun 12. 2020

      This is a guest column, not a staff column, representing one view; your comment represents another.

      Reply to this comment
    • Donavan

      Jun 13. 2020

      Sir, I did not write this article to be inflammatory to anybody of any color. This is only expressing my own experiences in this time.

      Reply to this comment
      • Pam Upp

        Jun 13. 2020

        Beautifully stated, Donavan. I’m so proud of your eloquent writing and openness to share your experience/feelings. I hope you are doing well. Tell your brother and mom hello for me. Take care of yourself. 👏

        Reply to this comment
        • Carrie Higgins

          Jul 01. 2020

          Wonderfully written article Donovan! Great perspective! We can all learn from one another.

          Reply to this comment
    • Mama Kidd

      Jun 13. 2020

      The author is relating HIS experiences in life. My experience as a woman, are entirely different than yours as a man. It does not invalidate your, his or my experiences, just that they are different.
      At no point did he tell people “how awful” they are. And it should be our duty as humans to understand our brethren.
      It appears you are uncomfortable acknowledging other people’s experiences. Which is sad, because that is where compassion begins.

      Reply to this comment
    • Lindsay

      Jun 18. 2020

      The fact that “peaceful protesters” is used to quotations to imply the opposite and “evil white man” is not indicates that you agree with the position that white men are evil. Ironic, considering you completely misinterpet the entire central idea presented by Donovan.

      Donovan–you don’t need to defend yourself to the haters. It was insightful and well written. Anyone with a reading comprehension above a 4th grade level understood your point.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Christine Cable

    Jun 12. 2020

    Donavan your article is perfect! Wonderfully written and I am so very glad to see you are doing well! Continued success to you!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Gail

    Jun 12. 2020

    Loved the article Donovan and thank you for sharing your experiences!!!!

    Reply to this comment
  4. G.Gottio

    Jun 12. 2020

    Your term fitting in doesn’t explain much..
    Every person on earth is ethnic in one way or another.

    Live life and don’t feel like you have to fit in..It’s your life you don’t have to feel explain

    Honestly

    Reply to this comment
  5. Cheri Lundstrom

    Jun 13. 2020

    Donovan, I never considered you anything but a delightful young man. I had no idea you had any questionable heritage. Unfortunately I divide the world into two kinds of people ***hats and reasonable. Someone has to get the ***hat gene, just be glad it wasn’t you.

    Reply to this comment
  6. lawman

    Jun 14. 2020

    Cherie very NARROW vision on your part. maybe that’s why we have all the issues that we do. you are either in or out according to you.

    Reply to this comment

Leave a Reply to Carrie Higgins