When I was seven years old, I loved winter because I believed the sun was sleeping and therefore my olive skin would fade under the thick sky. I believed that by the time winter ended, I would be a beautiful ivory and come back to school white like the rest of my friends.
My mother told me, “You’re always going to be brown. Your hair will always be brown. Your eyes will always be brown. Your parents will always have rich accents and you can’t change it. Start accepting it.”
Even now, as I stare in the mirror and think about how easy it could be to get my hands on colored contacts or hair dye, it’s difficult to accept. Growing up in the suburbs of Illinois, I wasn’t familiar with kids like myself. I came home from school to a weird loneliness, a wicked feeling under my skin that I was special in the wrong way.
Moving to the Bay Area, I was smacked in the face with an unaccustomed air. It was diversity beyond the brown kid’s imagination. 15 minutes into orientation, surrounded by kids like myself, I already knew I was going to be okay. In Cupertino, accommodating diversity was an easy feat: kids felt welcomed in a variety of clubs, amongst hospitable teachers and students, and most importantly, in an environment where we talked about ourselves-our culture, struggles we face, and ways that we defeat racism and help achieve awareness in the modern day.
I’ve always maintained a positive mindset about representation and working towards diversity for our growing generation when it comes to the media, our classrooms, and the workplace. I am proud to be brown, proud to carry my rich culture and ethnicity on my back, knowing that “terrorist” and “bomber” is not who I am or what defines me. I am here in Cupertino, a diverse and accepting environment, where I will continue smashing stereotypes and helping people like myself realize that we will rise above.
With a Perspective, I’m Didem Arslanoglu.
Didem Arslanoglu is a senior at Cupertino High School, studying theater and attending Temple University in the fall.