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Who Am I? A Social Problem.
I don’t know if I’ll ever fit in.
I’m half Mexican, half white. In a group of my friends, I clearly stand out.
My almost black eyes, dark brown hair and olive skin greatly contrasts from their light hair, lighter eyes, and pale complexions.
My stark Californian accent is different from their softer, ever so slightly southern dialects. It confuses me when they refer to tennis shoes as “gym shoes,” soda as “pop.” Even though I’ve lived in Kentucky for almost seven years now, I’ll never really feel at home.
When I was fourteen and at summer camp, a girl who was roughly a year younger than me asked, “No offense, but, like, what are you?”
Confused, I asked her to explain.
She meant my heritage. Where was I from?
I shouldn’t have been, but I was slightly surprised. Not shocked, though-- I’ve had similar experiences. No one had ever asked me so bluntly, though.
I explained my heritage patiently. My grandparents were born in Mexico but raised in a small town on the border of Texas, and my father was born and raised in California. My however-many-great grandparents on my mother’s side immigrated from Germany and Italy, but she, too was from California.
She nodded, content with my answer.
But soon afterwards, the younger girls were discussing the age old topic of boyfriends.
One of them asked if I was dating anyone. I told them that, yes, I was with someone at my school. The same girl that had asked me only ten minutes ago about my race then questioned,
“Is he, y’know, one of your type?”
This confused me even more.
She then clarified that she meant Mexican.
That really startled me. Sure, I’d had people ask if I were latina, but never like that. The way she said it made it seem as if I were a different species, or from a different planet.
While I felt alienated at the time, I didn’t feel discriminated against. There are so many other people who have had so many other real problems-- life threatening ones. So I will not call this discrimination- it would be an offense to people who actually have problems every single day; more ignorance, than anything else.
But it is not something I would’ve had to experience if I were viewed as white.
On the other hand, during the rare moments I am in the company of people who were born and raised in Mexico, I feel like an imposter. My dark hair isn’t that dark, my tan, olive skin not that tan. I can hardly roll my r’s, let alone speak Spanish. I feel like a “fake” latina. My grandmother will rattle off a question to me, waiting for me to answer her. I nod along awkwardly until she remembers that I don’t understand her, I can’t understand her, no matter how badly I want to at that moment. She sighs, then reiterates her sentence in English.
Whenever that happens, I feel like a disappointment, like I should be trying harder. I’ve tried to learn the language and continue to. But I will never be fluent, I will never be a natural.
I don’t know if I’ll ever come to peace with this middle ground.
But at the same time, I feel lucky to be able to have this unique life. I get the privilege of experiencing multiple cultures and traditions, many of which people my age have never heard of or get to participate in.
Most important above all else, though, isn’t race or anything of the sort. It’s how lucky I am to have loving family and friends, who don’t care about how I look or where I’m from.