This is not another article about race. This is also not an article about what I think about any race in particular, or what I think people should think about race, this post is about how I feel about my own particular ambiguity and why not only am I proud of it, but why I don’t like people who try to tell me what I am (or am not). It’s also a bit of inspiration out there, for anyone who can identify with what they will read, and for those who truly simply wish the human construct of race would disappear so we could move on to more important things like discovering a way for cookies to not make us fat, and finding bigfoot (a big concern of mine).
I’m racially ambiguous, and for those of you who may not know what that means, it basically signifies that just like those kinds of people who don’t carry themselves in a stereotypical gender style and leave everyone wondering whether you should call them ma’am or sir, people don’t know what race box to put me in or what stereotypes I should fit in to according to their preconceived notion. That seems to upset people. I think that’s what upsets them the most, the fact that they can’t say: “you’re such an (insert race here) girl”. I’ll save you the melodrama from my childhood because frankly, I find the humor in it now more than anything, but basically finding friends was hard. I grew up in a predominantly Latino/Hispanic surrounding, and according to everyone else, that’s what I was. But at home, we had no labels. I truly was raised color-blind, I knew that people were different but I had no idea that they treated each other differently because of something as infantile and unchangeable as looks. How was I supposed to understand that someone won’t like someone else because of how they look? Or how they were born with absolutely no control over the matter? I remember discovering as early as kindergarten that things weren’t going to be easy for me in this department. There was a girl named Jessica in my class, she was African-American and I thought her hair was the coolest because she had different colored braids and beads, and wore the hippest outfits. Jessica would hang out with other girls who had braids and cool beads, and in my mind, I thought they were the girl group to go talk to. I was an introvert, but I was curious. I approached Jessica and her group, and to my surprise got blasted with remarks like: “you can’t sit with us because you think you’re all that because you have long hair” “we don’t like your skin color” said another. Others were less kind and would pull my long braids. I felt sad, but brushed it off and went to find another group to hang out with. There were two other girls who had golden flaxen long straight hair and had awesome unicorn lunch boxes, Stephanie and Amie were their names. I still remember them swinging together on that mulch filled playground. I remember wanting to draw with them, and having them look at me funny, they would ask me why I was darker skinned, why my hair was curly, and they never seemed to feel completely at ease with my presence and I could feel it. A little Caucasian neighbor once told the other girls on my street that they couldn’t play with me because I was dark, but then the African-American girls would also say the same things. The Hispanic girls didn’t seem to like me either, they had those stereotypical long dark straight locks and spoke Spanish differently than I did, they had formed strong nationalist bonds with fellow Puerto Rican or Mexican people, and being from neither of those countries didn’t do me any favors apparently. At church it was also the same, I was always the oddball, and I quickly realized…”no one looks like me so no one likes me, that’s the issue”. Even in my own family, I was darker than most, more Asian looking than others, smaller and shorter than most of my cousins, and simply put, all around different. I will be honest though, it never really got to me. It just didn’t, I thought it so ridiculous to care so much about someone’s looks to the point of discriminating them or categorizing them that I couldn’t be bothered by it. By the time I had advanced in elementary school I had an odd epiphany, all of my friends were Asian or Middle Eastern. The only people who had seemed to embrace me with no questions asked were either from Asian countries (primarily India), or they were from the Middle East. So as a child, I made the conclusion that I was Asian. I literally thought I was from India for the longest time, and I’m not going to lie… judging by how much I like Indian food, turmeric, sarees, and cheeky old Bollywood films, I kind of still think I am. I remember a lovely Pakistani girl who was the daughter of a man my dad worked with, would speak to me in Urdu the entire time we played together, I answered in English, and this confused her. She then asked my mom “Doesn’t she speak Urdu? Why doesn’t she answer in the language?” my mom laughed and explained that our family spoke Spanish. I then had to ask myself, why exactly do we speak Spanish though. I had long ago heard the story that my family had settled in the Carribean from the North of Spain, I heard lots about that. I knew we were Spanish speakers and we had the “nationality” of a Latin country, but I was still confused as to why I didn’t fit in.
As I’ve gotten to adulthood, I have had friends of all sorts, and of almost every background. But I will admit this, most of them are also ambiguous in their backgrounds or looks, or like me, they are expats, travelers, nomads… people who left their backgrounds in a suitcase somewhere a long time ago and have traveled too much to remember where the hell they’re really from. When you’re around people like this you learn to stop asking where you’re really from early on because no one actually remembers that well or cares for that matter. See, that’s what moving around and traveling does to you, it’s like dying your hair too many times, at some point, you forget what your natural hair color even was. Here’s the thing, it sucks that racism exists, but I don’t think that we make it any better. The other night I was watching one of my all time favorite films: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with the irreplaceable and unmatched Sidney Portier. If you haven’t seen it, you must, just do it, get back to me when you do. One of the best lines in the film occurs when Sidney explains to his father that he sees no difference between himself and his fiancee. “Father the difference between you and I is that you see yourself as a colored man, I see myself as a man,” he says. This line, this line is everything I want to say, everything I wish people understood, absolutely everything. I’m tired of the Instagram race wars, I’m tired of people thinking I’m denying my race or claiming a race I’m not. Newsflash, I am denying my race! I’m denying everything! I’m also denying my nationality, and every other damn stereotype you want to throw at me. Thanks to those DNA tube tests, I’ve literally found out that I actually am everything, everything you could possibly be, I am (except Irish sadly, this broke my heart, I sing Molly Malone so well). I’m mostly European, then Polynesian and East/South Asian. Then North African, then Middle Eastern and lastly I have a whopping percentage of Native American which was astoundingly awesome and very explanatory of a lot of odd things I seem to enjoy, including why my boyfriend claims I look like Pocahontas, and why I sing “colors of the wind” when I’m walking through forests and petting animals (let the stereotype bashing begin). So there you have it, I’m like a Panda: Black, White and Asian. Also, I claim everything. Each day of the week I claim something different just to make life fun for myself. The thing I identify most with? I’m probably going to say Polynesian because I think I look more Polynesian than anything else, and probably Scandinavian because I’m obsessed with Viking Heritage and I hate the heat and love Norway and Sweden and log houses and those little red horses. I’m not going to apologize for that. I’m not going to apologize for feeling Scandinavian and identifying more or less with one culture than another, this is me. This is who I am and what I like.
Sometimes I watch those “mixed girl tag” videos on YouTube and the comments just make me cringe. Why do you girls do that? Stop telling people things, stop giving explanations to ignorant people who want to obligate you to claim or deny something that stings them for reasons completely out of your responsibility. I feel that racially ambiguous people have it harder than most, why? Because they get blamed for the stuff of every racial stereotype. If you’re mixed and you look more Black, you still get bashed for looking a little “less” Black and being more “exotic” and having that come back at you in a negative way. If you actually look less Black and you say you’re Black, people seem to get offended at you claiming a race you don’t appear to be. You get bashed for having more privileges because you look whiter or more Asian or whatever, you get bashed for having curlier hair or straighter hair, people envy you because someone out there is making a spectacle of your looks while you’re just minding your own business and breathing oxygen and stuff. It’s tough. The good thing is I’ve always found a way to take it with humor, but if I were to somber this out a bit, it would be really sad to come to the realization that ever since I can remember, the question I’ve been asked the most is: “what are you”. That even at churches and professional environments, I’ve “disappointed” people with my answer. I once had a girl from African descent ask: “Are you biracial? Like is your mom Black or your dad White?” I kind of shrugged with a smile and said no, I explained that I was of Spanish descent and multi-racial but neither of my parents was Black or White for that matter. She actually made an “ugh” sound and said: “Oh… I thought you were Black” and left. She literally left and didn’t talk to me much after that, I disappointed her expectations of me. I kind of chuckled at her reaction, at the fact that she saw herself as a Black woman more than anything else. I don’t see myself as any particular race before I see myself as a human being that’s just trying to be a better person. I don’t see myself as a race before I see myself as a beautiful woman. People used to say things like: “You think you cute cause you have long hair don’t you?” or “You think you cute cause you’re mixed” and my answer is… yes, I do think I’m cute. Not superior, but damn cute. Am I supposed to sit here and cry because I don’t look as Black or as White as someone? That would be the biggest waste of time in the existence of time wasting. I think I’m cute because I am cute, with whatever features I have, and whatever “race” gives me those features, it’s who I am. I’m done opening my purse and pulling out my family tree to explain to people why I am or am not the race they impose on me. Next time someone says: “you don’t look….” I’m just going to shrug and say: “The interesting part in all of this is that you can actually see me, I’ve been working on being visible for years” then I’m going to shout out into the air and say: “The spray is working Rupert! Good gravy! People can see me!”.