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  • the children from white mothers



    i am the “where are you from” that means “what are you, really.” the last step that you forget is there, the one you trip over in the dark and remind yourself to remember, next time. when i was a child, i thought my mother was so beautiful but her features do not impress me anymore: the blonde hair, blue eyes, skin so fair you can see the veins swimming to the surface.

                the 9-year-old children who look more like her are the ones i am not excited to talk to. the ones who make me feel like the room is a bit too stuffy and i am sitting across from them on the couch looking at their faces, reassuring myself i do not look like them. counseling is for children who have things to talk about. counselors have things to talk about too, things we forget about until we see a child who reminds us. on the subway standing beside a white girl, i make sure i do not look too much like her in the scratched-up reflection of darkness, as we pass through the numbered streets. i make sure i do not stand too close to her so no one mistakes me as “one of them,” and not on the side of people of color who i love

    who are me.


    what happens when you have no idea what you look like? mixed children with white mothers are looking into mirrors and making sure they are still there. i do not remember the last time someone actually saw me. when i am in a middle eastern restaurant i pronounce the names of the foods wrong because it will still be wrong when i pronounce them right. no one ever says ahlan w sahlan when i order hummus, but they do to the girl in line behind me. i do not remember the last time i saw myself.

    what happens when everyone mistakes who you are? when you forget who you are. in my head, my name is spelt with an f, sofia. in my head, my middle name is pronounced “khaleed.” the kids with the brown hands call me “lightskin.”

    what happens when you feel more identification with a label that is not you––when what they think you are feels more like who you are.

    when i was a child i would wish someone would call me a terrorist, to solidify the other-ness that was so familiar. i love children with brown hands and curly-twisty strands of hair pointing to the heavens. i love children with eyes that see who i am without question, whose feet know nothing but running away for survival.

    arab-american is living in between two things: white and black. i see my heart in the children with brown hands.

    we are americans who are seen as more like: other, foreign, mid-lands, middle-grounds, middle east, motherland,

     mothers who… are not like me.

    “you don’t look different than anyone else” she tells me,

    tears running down my face––salt from the forgotten half of the dead sea, occupied, separated from its homeland, not feeling the warmth of bodies that belong.

    anyone else: default, normal, white.

    different: out of place, weird, ambiguity, non-white.

    we are mixed kids with white mothers who tell us we are like “anyone else,”


    erasing the footprints of children with brown feet, black hair reminiscent of bristle brushes. children with skin that in the sun turns a hue darker than the skin underneath the spaghetti straps of tank-tops.

    when you laid beside a brown man you never thought about the child between the two of you––one who would be nothing like her mother and nothing like her father

    ambiguous and heartbroken

    from questioning that never scratches the surface of what she feels inside.

    (peeling back strands of white from the crevices of the orange’s skin)

    what do you do with the children born from white mothers who do not know what they look like but know how they feel

    in colors that could never come from white mothers.


    About The Author

    Sophia Al-Banaa aaduna spring summer 2018
    Sophia Al-Banaa identifies as a mixed woman of color, born to an Arab father and white American mother. She has lived in South Carolina, Kuwait, New Jersey and now, Philadelphia. She is pursuing her clinical Masters in Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, and is passionate about empowering and loving youth of color, personal narratives, poetry, and all artistic expressions of identity. Sophia has been writing since the age of 6 and hopes to one day find a way to use her love of words within her work with youth of color––she believes the ability to tell one’s story is a means to gaining agency. Sophia’s mixed identity has been a site of confusion, isolation, and sadness, but has also led to contemplation about belonging: what it truly means, building our own communities, and freeing ourselves from identity labels that may cloud our views of reality. Sophia’s ‘mixed’ identity is an overarching theme of her works.