Friday, June 03, 2005

On race and heritage and my identity

There was a post on 2ps tonight that started me thinking.

The poster asked if the Spanish speaking scrappers on the board journaled in English or in Spanish. I gave a long winded confusing answer, LOL, but it made me think.

I am a Latina. Moreover, I am Mexican.

I am proud of my heritage, but I don't believe that I am solely defined by it. I refuse to join groups or organizations for "Mi raza" or my race because I firmly believe that if I segregate myself, then I am leaving myself for others to segregate me too. Someone asked me once why I joined a "regular" Panhellenic Sorority in college as oppossed to one of the Hispanic Council Sororities, and that was the answer I gave. She looked at me like I was an idiot.

I had to join a cultural discussion group for a class I took. You went in, filled out a survey so they could learn about you, then assigned you to a group. I got assigned to "Hispanic vs. White". Just the name pissed me off. VERSUS? WTF?

I spent a whole semester being irritated at the whole thing. There were two moderators, one representing each group. The moderator from the White group was a nice, mild mannered man. The moderator from the Latino group was a loud mouthed idiot. Seriously. And the White kids, they spent the whole time trying not to offend the Mexican kids. The Mexican kids seemed to always be on the offensive, looking for things to be pissed off about.

At the beginning of the semester, we were asked to write a question for discussion on a slip of paper, and those were placed in a bag. These were supposed to spark discussion for the whole semester. Well, only one question got discussed that semester, but it was discussed at great length and almost for a month: My question.

Why is Brown Pride okay but White Pride is not?

The Latino moderator stated that we would be discussing a question posed by one of the members of the White group. I almost died laughing when I heard what it was. What an ass! Just the fact that he would make that assumption showed his own prejudices. I didn't tell him about it until the end of the semester. I thought the White moderator was gonna die laughing too.

My mom tells me that I am "too White". What does that mean? My mom, biologically, is more White than I am. She is half, where I am only 1/4. But I live in a nice neighborbood in Chandler, not in the hood in South Phoenix. I didn't get married until I was 26. I am not a jealous type, and neither is my husband. We trust each other completely and don't feel the need to be by each other's side 24/7. I am the only person in my family that did not become a parent at 16 and that did get a high school diploma instead of a GED. My friends are all white, because I worked in a place with mostly white people.

Should I base my friendships on people who have the same sense of humor and values that I have, or should I limit myself to people who only have the same color of skin that I have?

I don't usually think about race in my everyday life. To me, people are people. I love my friends, and I don't think of people as "that black guy" or "that asian chick". Why must I be "that Mexican girl"?

It's not that I am ashamed to be "that Mexican girl". I share my thoughts with people who ask me about them and they automatically assume that I must be ashamed of my heritage. Soy Mexicana. Soy Americana. Hablo espanol y ingles. I am Mexican, I am American. I speak Spanish and English.

Why can't I just be Sara, "that Creative girl" or "that Sarcastic girl" or even "that Scrapbooking girl"? There are so many things that make me who I am, ME, why can't I be just as proud of those things that I AM responsible for adding to my personality instead of just focusing on the things I had no part or say in creating?

But here's the flip side.

I see the Latinas that are proud and gung ho about their heritage. I see how they allow it to envelop them, and they embrace it, and it's real. I envy that. Yeah, I listen to some music in Spanish. Yup, I made tamales last Christmas. I can respond to a post on 2ps in Spanish, and I sometimes curse at my pets in Spanish. But to do more, to go beyond that, it feels so fake to me. And that makes me sad.

Why fake? Because I don't live that life from day to day. I am forcing it, it doesn't come naturally. I have this beautiful part of who I am and I am totally conflicted about it. I don't want to deny it, and I am proud of it (gotta admit, it makes me a tad more interesting!) but I don't want to be solely defined by it, but if I don't allow that then others view me as being ashamed.

Boy, it would sure suck and be boring if we all looked the same, but wouldn't it be so much easier?


Blogger Melissa said...

I think being different is good. You stand out from the crowd instead of blend in. This may sound funny but, to the "whites" you stand out a little because of your heritage. To the "mexicans" you stand out at little because you aren't gung ho mexican. I think it is a perfect balance. You don't want to blend in. You want to be you and it sounds like you are doing a great job of being you!You are celebrating the perfect balance of who you are and what your heritage is. If we all looked the same, would you have married your husband? :)....Have a great day being YOU!!!!
BTW- love the new banner title, and thanks for putting a link to my blog...we probably don't live that far away from each other, weird :)

7:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that you are the perfect balance. While my DH doesn't speak or write the Spanish language he is pretty balanced as well.

I wish there weren't "names" for people. We are just who we are.

Oh, BTW, you are the sarcastic chic to me. LOL I think that is one of the reasons you mean so much to me. You make me laugh and you are genuine. That says a lot.

Lub Ya',

8:03 AM  
Blogger Tina said...

Very thought provoking.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Cherry Moon said...

I understand EXACTLY what you're saying.

12:03 AM  

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