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When we first moved to this sheltered, sparkling little Coloradan community, I believed my dad when he said that the residents here were all smiles and hellos and polite nods. I didn’t understand why my mom crossed her arms with a slowly released sigh, and then always came home with her face tight from teeth-clenching and voice sharpened to a point.
So I began to pay attention.
Whenever my mom and I went out, no one looked at us. If someone’s glance inadvertently knotted with ours, their eyes would flit away in a blink, grocery carts squeaking in their sudden hurry to exit the aisle. The cashiers were terse and mechanical with us, and the attendants always said “May I help you?”— to the person behind us, as though their feigned ignorance could will us out of existence.
The worst part, though, was when they would let doors slam in our faces. Actually, no. It was when they would stand aside and make us open the door, then rush past us.
It got to the point where my mom would take any excuse not to go out, even to work.
I asked my dad what on earth was going on, but he didn’t understand. It was all smiles again whenever he and I went out.
Then I asked my mom why it only happened to her, not me. She gave a little ghost of a smile and said, “Baby, you’re half white. You don’t look Mexican.”
It’s true. I don’t.
Perhaps I was lucky. When I was in school or with friends, no one knew I held two races in one body. I was just one of them.
Then again, perhaps I wasn’t lucky. We’d be talking and laughing, me and my friends, my equals, when suddenly they’d become white and make a crack about beaners, cholos, they’re all illegal immigrants smuggling drugs across the border taking our jobs can’t even speak our language ignorant f***s why can’t they all just go back to Mexico? and then, with eyes shining, they’d search my face to see if I shared their ever-so-amusing prejudice, not knowing they were staring its victim in the face.
And I’d do my best to smile, because you can only take so much abuse towards half of yourself before you, too, try to will it out of existence.





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