A Letter to Mom

Dear Mom,

Although it is always a good laugh remembering the stories you told us when people thought you were our nanny because we looked so different as children, we are so lucky to have you as our mother! Now that we are older, we want to say thank you! We will always appreciate the moments and lessons that have helped us find acceptance with ourselves.

You never relaxed our hair! We remember a few times as children when we asked to relax our hair. We thought that if we relaxed our hair it would always be straight and we could then look like the other girls in school. But, we are glad you did not agree and taught us there was no need for that because natural beauty is most important. You helped us learn to love and take care of our curls and that our curls were just another unique part of who we are.

You taught us that we are all one race, human. When faced with adversity in regards to race, you taught us how to we stand up for ourselves! It does not matter who you are, respect and love for all cultures/ethnicities is what brings us all together, a life and world world without boundaries.

You pushed us to challenge societal stereotypes of gender and race. You have always been an independent and powerful women for us to look up to. You didn’t let anyone hold you back from achieving your goals and you taught us the same. You taught us not put limits on what we can achieve  because of our race or gender and you have always been our biggest supporter.

You didn’t allow us just to rely on our looks, but you encouraged use to be intelligent beings too. We are not objects or exotic trophies and just because we are shades in the middle of white and black, it does not make us anything more or less than the others. When you received the compliment “Oh such pretty girls” you never failed to let people know we are not defined by our “prettiness” for we are intelligent too!

When you speak of our background, you remind us to proud of all of our ethnicities. We are proud  to have ancestors who came over on the Mayflower and a Polish last name. After an ancestry test and research we are proud to claim that we have origins from multiple regions in Africa and are of Native American descent. All of these fascinating stories are fun to learn and know that we are our own melting pot of amazing races!

We thank you mom for raising us and teaching us how to love every side of us. To be leaders so that we can inspire others and for holding us accountable to carrying ourselves as respectable young ladies in our community. We thank you for being that role model in our lives to alway look up and that we aspire to be. We love you and thank you mom!


Megan, Amanda, and Alexis <3



Check out more of our stories at www.ruleofthr3e.com


Megan Rudnik received her B.S. in International Business with a minor in Spanish and her MBA from Winthrop University. Since graduating, Megan spent 2 years in the eace Corp, serving in Panama. She also recently completed 4 months in China teaching English.

Amanda Rudnik received her B.S. in Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting from The Citadel. While at The Citadel, Amanda played all four years on the Citadel volleyball while serving in various leadership roles in the South Carolina Corp of Cadet. Amanda now currently works for a large company and pursues her dream of modeling.

Alexis Rudnik is currently a student at Winthrop University, studying Middle Level Education Math and Social Studies. Alexis was a member of the 2016 Winthrop Volleyball team and is currently coaching volleyball at the club level.

We all grew up in Minnesota for 10 years before moving to our current residence in South Carolina. Our mother is African American and Native American and from Alabama. Our father is Polish and German and originally from Minnesota.

Pocho–Going Rogue

For as long as I can remember, identity by choice or force has wrought conflict and contradictions. Who am I? What am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going?

My surname implies I’m white, but my brown skin begs to differ. Am I Mexican? My Mother’s family tree most certainly is, but my Father’s Celtic, Euro-Iberian branch bears my Anglo surname.

Am I more culturally European than ethnically Latino? Am I a Native American, rooted to my beloved Yaqui Abuela? To which tribe do I belong? The truth of the matter is that I’ve teetered on the edge of dueling race and ethnicities all of my life. My admission accepted or denied for equally irrational cultural and color coded reasons. My detractors accused me of acting too white; being too dark-skinned; not being Yaqui enough. They ridiculed me for, not speaking Spanish fluently; for, not being from the “barrio”; for speaking “fancy” like a gabacho.

By many, I’m considered a “Pocho” – a half-breed; an Americanized Mexican, who has “lost” his culture. I’m an exile in the land of my birth.

So after a period of dealing with these socially engineered absurdities I decided to go rogue. My previous applications for club admission were less about acceptance than it was about attaining membership.

Membership, after all, has its privileges. Just ask any country club crony, politician, and corporate executive – any member of any union or fraternal organization, or a religious shill.

Race, religion, and ethnicity are no different. Why not join the club and reap the rewards? Ironically, rejection by each group did me a huge favor. Being summarily rebuffed inspired me to find out who I was at my core.

Although I primarily identify myself as Latino, I discovered I wasn’t solely Mexican-American, ‘White,’ or Native-American or any other “pure” or artificially coalesced American classification. To support what I “felt” instinctively, I sought “scientific” corroboration through racial and genealogical DNA testing. My DNA results revealed a wealth of ethnic diversity. I am:

41% Native American;

40% White European;

7% Middle Eastern;

4% African;

4% Caucasus &

4% East, Central, South Asian.

I discovered that the whole of me was greater than the sum of my parts.

I’m an everyman. I’m good with that. I like being whole.

I embrace my ethnicities entirely, not as separate distinctions capable of wielding favor or force. Mine is an inclusive, universal existence rooted in the interconnected conservation and fate of mankind and the planet.

An early proponent of this perspective was Alexander von Humboldt, the preeminent 19th-century Prussian naturalist and explorer of Latin and South America. When asked about the connection between places, people, and culture, he opined:

“The only way to understand the world is to look at it as a whole instead of breaking everything down into isolated parts. The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.”

Amen, brother. Expand your horizon. All human beings, regardless of race, place, and society are interrelated.

Yes, of course, I realize that racial and ethnic lines deeply divide this country. And no, I don’t believe in the cockeyed notion and optimism that we live in a post-racial America and that we’re all simply Americans, kumbaya. Government doctrine clearly lays out what American distinction is: we’re either “white,” Americans by amalgamation or nonsensically, all “others.” All, I am saying, is that I chose not to be racially or ethnically manipulated by anybody or anything.

Identifying me by color or socially engineered dissimilarities is to marginalize my consciousness, humanity, self-worth, and empowerment. Artificial classifications have expiration dates, and I’ve reached mine, thank you very much.

I understand I can’t change how the world defines me, but I can change how I view my world.

To me, self-awareness began with the past. I believe in the adage that, “To know where you’re going, you must first know where you’ve been.” I accept as true that the discovery of our origins and our impetus for ancestral emigration links history with today and today with the future.

It’s the conduit from which independent cultural identity and sensibilities are born, cradled, nurtured and grown.

When it’s all said and done, my life is a multicolored collage of imperfection, as it should be. It’s not a work of art; it’s more a work in progress. Even so, it’s mine to paint. To quote Jackson Pollock, the influential American drip painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement:

“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the outstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”

In my “Pocho” eyes, the human race is a kaleidoscope of colors cascading down on the canvas we call a planet. That’s a painting, worldview, identity and life worth exploring, and where it takes me is entirely up to me.


Frederico WilsonFrederico Wilson is currently the owner and President of an International Fluid Power Procurement and Sourcing Company; founder of a non-profit organization (under development); blogger at mestizoblog.com, focusing on multicultural perspectives and issues. He is a USAF veteran (environmental/missile inspection specialist); and former domestic and international professional in the Airline, Telecommunications, Sales, and Financial Securities industries. Originally from Arizona, he is a lifetime student of cultural anthropology and applied behavioral science. He attended Arizona Western and the University of Arizona and holds numerous military technical, and corporate management certifications and licenses.

He is of mixed Mexican, Indian (Yaqui Tribe), Euro-Iberian, and Cornish Celtic ancestry. He lives, works, and writes in metropolitan Seattle, Washington.

He is best described by a quote attributed to Anthony Bourdain when recounting the preparation of a Burgundy wine-base rooster entrée.

“So, they take this big, tough, nasty-ass rooster, too old to grill, too tough to roast. Marinate and simmer the shit out of it, before it’s tasty.”

Frederico is the author of a new book, Escaping Culture: Finding your place in the world. Find out more on his website: mestizoblog.com

Switching it Up: Mixing Identities Over Time

I couldn’t understand why my mother was so outraged. I was eight, perhaps nine, and my great-aunt – my mother’s aunt – had just graced me with what she clearly thought was a compliment: “She could pass for Spanish!”

My great-aunt thought I could “pass for Spanish,” and that was enough to make my mother invite her own aunt to leave our house. I was young and probably even more naïve than some of my peers and had no idea what “pass” meant or why it would make my mother so angry. It was obviously a bad thing – I sure never wanted to pass, whatever that was! I didn’t see much of my great-aunt after that, though my mother fumed about that comment from time to time for years after.

Let me give you some background. I have two families of origin. I’ll talk about the second one first because it is the most important. I was adopted as an infant by what some would label “light-skinned” African American people and I was raised as Black. I was seven when my first adoptive mother died, my father remarried soon thereafter – again to a light-skinned, African American woman. But here’s where it started to get complicated. I learned I was adopted when my first adoptive mother died. The shock of that still echoes five decades later. I remember clearly that I desperately wanted to understand my story. My WHOLE story, not just what happened after my first few months in a Chicago orphanage. This is not a comfortable conversation for most adoptive parents, especially those who adopted in the 1950’s when birth parents were erased from birth certificates and new parents were assured that, through the miracle of careful matching, no one need ever know that their child wasn’t born to them, that their adopted child could pass as a birth child. But my place in the world had suddenly changed very painfully, my anchors ripped away, what I knew to be true turned into lies, two mothers lost before I was a decade old. And I needed to put the pieces together.

My new mom – who will just be called my mother from here – didn’t know much about my story. I heard several variations of my origins; my favorite was that my parents had met as college students; my birth mother was white and my birth father a student from Africa. He was Black, of course. Clearly that could never have worked out so I was placed for adoption. Even within the variations, the races remained the same and, suddenly, I was a mixed race person. My mom was mixed, too, with Caucasian, Creek and African American heritage, but she was raised and identified as black so, when I tried to talk about this new revelation and my identity with my equally mixed new cousins, I was informed by my mother to drop that, I was Black and that was that. My new family primarily identified as black, even though I know that they were sometimes perceived as perhaps of another background. No one thought about passing, as far as I know. We were proud of being black. So, I never brought it up again, though I frequently wondered about that missing mom, the first mom, the one who’d carried and birthed me and then gave me to another family.

I secretly tried on this mysterious identity. But I didn’t know anyone who identified as mixed; there were no popular figures, no classmates, no characters in the many books I read, who called themselves mixed. So, without some model as to what that identity meant and looked like, that youthful flirtation with a different racial identity did not have any way to take root.

Two decades or so passed. When my first child was born one of my first thoughts was that here was the first person I knew who was related to me by blood. We try to pretend that it’s not, but blood is important in American culture. Adoption is outside our norm and often not even on our social radar. People who didn’t know otherwise, always saw a resemblance between me and my adoptive family – I’d hear, “you look like your cousin,” “you’re tall like your dad,” or “you have your mom’s hair.” The miracle of careful matching. I recall once having to do a biology assignment in which we had to trace a specific inheritable physical trait through our family tree – I never knew if the teacher realized that I made all of my information up, or if she guessed that I or someone else in my family had been adopted. Even my mother would occasionally use the phrase, “Blood is thicker than water,” to stress how family should stick together. I don’t think she ever realized the irony.

After having a child, I decided to find my roots, if I could. I had been grafted onto another tree – a wonderful, welcoming, hospitable tree, but nevertheless, not the place I’d started. The saga of my search is a long story in itself so we’ll skip to the happy ending – I found my maternal side, the long-lost womb and first love. I was extremely fortunate that I was welcomed into the family with wide open arms as if I’d only been away for a while. Suddenly this only child had siblings, a host of new cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles. It was overwhelming and wonderful and mostly white. My two (older) half siblings were also mixed and there were other family members who were people of color, all welcomed in the family, but still very much a minority.

My birthmother and I were pretty taken with each other and that meant, for me, finding an identity that included her. It was easy to start calling myself mixed then. My older sister, who had grown up with our shared mother, identified as mixed – check both boxes or check other, don’t let yourself be forced to choose. We weren’t white and didn’t want to be or to try to pass as such, but we both embraced the mixed heritage that contributed to who we were. I reveled in this new identity because it gave me a connection that I had never experienced before. I gleefully checked both boxes when that pesky demographic question showed up. Not, as my mother had feared, because I wanted to be less black, but because I wanted to connect to my biological family.

Fast forward again to today. My connection to my first family of origin is solid. We see each other from time to time, talk on the phone, send cards, share via Facebook. And my identity has drifted back. I now check one box, Black/African American. It’s not because it’s what people see when they look at me, but because it’s who I feel I am. Maybe it’s because of the identity that I lived with for so long, but I feel that I can be a Black person of mixed roots, retain that solid personal connection with both my birth and adoptive families, and embrace all of the history that make me the person I am today.

Out of curiosity, I recently tried the DNA test offered by Ancestry.com. It returned my genetic background as 61% European. In the Ancestry.com world, that means Caucasian. Africa contributed 38% of my DNA with the negligible remainder, traces of West Asia. This is interesting, I suppose, and if the demographic questions that come up on studies or surveys asked for my genetic identity, I would give a different answer. But, for now, I’m African American. It’s the identity that shaped my life and experiences in America. And it’s the one I’m happy with. For now. Check back in another 20 years.

By: Darlene Nichols


[rescue_column size=”one-third” position=”first”]20150213_092521-1[/rescue_column] Darlene is a proud Midwesterner born and raised, mother of two talented musical sons, librarian extraordinaire, and advocate for diversity and inclusion. Not only does she have a mixed race heritage, she is married interracially and has biracial children so issues relate to mixed identity, acceptance, role models, etc., have been of long interest. She has been a librarian at the University of Michigan for almost thirty years and, growing out of that role, co-edited a readers’ and researchers’ guide to finding information on mixed race people entitled Multiracial America: a resource guide on the history and literature of interracial issues. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband and Sheltie and, occasionally, sons.