Monkey in the Middle

Growing up we always got the “Oh! Such pretty girls you have!” compliment. Growing up it was fun knowing we were “pretty” and being told that everywhere we went. However, as we got older, we started to see what it really meant, or at least our perception started to shift on our meaning of that compliment. We knew we were very blessed and thankful for our skin color, and hair we were lucky to have, but we didn’t want to be just another “pretty” face in society, we wanted to make a difference. Some made it seem like we always had everything given to us because of how we looked. Yet, we could never quite fit in with the black kids or white kids because of our background. We were either too white, or too black, so it was as if we were the black girl when with the white kids in school or the white girl with the black kids and too “boujee”, like everything was just handed to us on a silver platter and we couldn’t understand what being black really meant. We were like a walking target of jokes, of “oh, you won’t get it, you’re not black enough”, or “it’s a white people thing, you won’t understand”. It seemed like no matter what we did, we could never get it right; and the fact that we’re all 3 years apart and still heard the same thing from our peers bothered us. It just really shows that no matter what age or generation we’re a part of, it’s like those mixed kids will get those comments. We’re forced to be only one side of ourselves to fit in, or if we don’t, then we don’t belong to either group. Just a monkey in the middle. As we continue to grow, we don’t want to be just pretty faces for we have goals and ambitions. We want to do something in our lives to not prove to not only others, but to ourselves as well, that we are somebody in this world, and we don’t have to pick a side to do it.

As sisters, we conquer in our own unique ways and in many different aspects of our lives. We don’t want to be just “pretty”, we want to be smart, intellectual, proactive, leaders, and role models. We are heavily involved in our community, giving back to our church, schools, and teams that we are a part of. Graduating high school and going to college, we each have our own niche.

Megan, the oldest, studied abroad which led her to more adventures in Panama. She completed 2 years of service in the Peace Corp and now speaks fluent Spanish. With that, she will now be going on a mission trip with our church to help translate.

Amanda, the second oldest, graduated from the military college of South Carolina, The Citadel, as a top student-athlete. She dominated on the court and academically, which led to her currently work for a large company while pursuing her dream of modeling.

Alexis, the youngest, is currently working on her degree in education to teach middle level math and social studies. However, in the meantime she has shown her presence by playing on the volleyball team and she continues to give back to her community, while balancing the job of student athlete, and coaching club volleyball.

All three of us work very hard to make an impact on each individual we encounter. We strive to do great things in life and follow our dreams, yet many think it comes easy for us, when in reality it doesn’t. We all have our stories, our own unique struggles and victories for we’re human just like everyone else. We want to start with the movement #Other. In society, we have all encountered numerous of times where we are asked to select our race and when we are only allowed to choose one race, we are once again forced to pick a side; shadowing half of who we are. We challenge everyone, whether white, black, hispanic, asian, biracial or multiracial to choose Other. We want to get rid of being labeled by skin tone, gender, or backgrounds and just see each other as human beings. We all live in this melting pot of different backgrounds, all connected by the love and respect we are to share with other beings. We hope to stop bullying no matter what race, gender, religion, or sexual preference. We want to challenge society to see people for who they truly are in their mind and soul and not their predetermined labels. We’re all just human.


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.

My speech is a product of my upbringing and education- not a racial label

What is the defining attribute that we all have that signifies our racial and cultural background? For some it’s hair, skin tone, body type, and, for some of us, it could be our speech. When I say speech I think of accents, vocabulary, the presence of bi-lingual mixing and coding like Spanglish. To the outside world your speech can be the only way to identify your background and history. In my case, it was just the opposite because I dealt with what many minorities have and that is the belief I am white because I “talk white.”

I grew up in a rural community in the panhandle of Texas with a population of less than 2,000 people. The majority of my childhood was spent learning Spanish from my grandmother who in turn was learning English from my sister and me. The community I grew up in was majority White and Mexican since it was a farming environment where many Mexicans spent time as sharecroppers. There was one all black family in the town but the oldest child was in high school and his siblings were in elementary so I had little interaction with them. To my knowledge, my sister and I were the only mixed children living in that community and at that time we knew we were different, but didn’t know how much our living experience there changed our speech until we left.

We didn’t grow up in that environment being able to emulate Hispanic accents so instead we acquired the ability to learn, read, and write Spanish. I can say unfortunately that most people don’t even know I have a Latina background with my foreign tongue until I actually speak it. I wish I had a defining accent or slip of my vocabulary that could give the indication I had Latina origins, but that’s not the case. The same can be said for the Black side of my culture in that I don’t always sound the most accurate if I’m speaking slang or saying words specific to that heritage. I can try, mimic and falsely imitate at best, but I probably resemble Carlton Banks more than anyone.

So what I am left with being mixed? If I don’t sound Mexican until I speak Spanish and I don’t sound Black then what do people hear when they listen to me? For the better part of life when I moved away from grandmother, minorities labeled my speech as white. I sound like a “white girl,” if white people have a specific sound or vernacular akin to their race. The problem is I’m not white and I don’t try to sound “white,” my language is a product of where I grew up, what I watched, where I lived. I can’t change that anymore than I can change that people attribute “big words, education, and proper English,” with only one culture.

The most common misconception when I’m asked about my cultural background is that I am black/white. When I correct people I often get the reasoning that it’s because I “sound white,” but when I ask, “what does white sound like?” I’m often met with a mute response. It has always been a very complicated line to cross being mixed with two racial backgrounds I don’t sound like, but I’m learning that it’s nothing to be ashamed of or apologetic about. I cannot change or alter people’s perceptions of me because in reality those ideals already existed prior to me trying to educate or inquire why they define a group of people on speech alone. I am not defined by my speech and I don’t have to prove otherwise to someone because of what they assume my cultural background is. I would never trade my time with my grandmother and the environment I was in for an accent or being able to speak vernacular more akin to my actual culture. All I can do is keep educating and learning about both sides of my culture and incorporating that into my Spanish and understanding of where the speech comes from and how it’s origins are specific to each culture.

Desiree Johnson is Texan Lady living in the windy, sometimes temperamental city of Chicago where she is getting her MFA in Creative Writing.

She has publications with The Rivard Report, NSIDE Publications, Study Breaks Magazine and Unite 4: Good. Her approach to writing whether fiction or non-fiction is to keep it as eclectic and diverse as her interest so she is ambitious in wanting to have her writing cross all platforms. She seeks to continue to improve in her skill set as an author, writer, and storyteller while educating others on being bi-racial and interracial relationships. As she continues finishing her MFA she looks forward to the new opportunities that lie ahead and embracing whatever life throws her way. She is currently a contributing writer for Swirl Nation Blog, EliteDaily.Com, an Editorial Fellow with The Tempest, and created the new “Your Hair Story Series,” with Mixed Chicks Hair Products.