Understanding the injustices towards different communities of color can be complicated for those who never experience racism. Some understand the concept of racism but only those within the community can understand that there are grey areas within different communities. I am white and I am Hispanic, which is complicated. According to both communities, sometimes I can be neither. It can be difficult to explain because not every white or Hispanic community accepts me.
It is not every day that I get recognized as a member of the Hispanic/Latinx community.
When I do, I get two reactions: “But you don’t look Hispanic” and “But you don’t speak Spanish.” Everyone, regardless of color, judges me on things that I have little control over and constantly makes me feel like I have no place. I am judged by my own community for my parents not teaching me Spanish. If I walked into a Hispanic household and I said I didn’t know Spanish as a Hispanic person, I know their tone would change. Things like not having a taste for specific Spanish foods like frijoles (beans) always seem forced upon me. “What? You don’t like beans? You have to, you’re Hispanic.” I am judged by the white community because of things I have no say over as well, like having brown curly hair, an olive complexion, how my father is an immigrant or my lower-class upbringing. Sometimes they don’t make an effort to pronounce my name or try to say it with an accent so it sounds more ethnic.
As a child, I grew up in a school comprised of mostly Hispanic kids. You may say that’s great, but sometimes it was difficult when I didn’t share the same experiences or interests as the other Hispanic kids. They claimed, “You’re not Hispanic” or “If you didn’t come here on a boat, you didn’t struggle.” I’m sure at the time they thought these were funny jokes, but comments like these made me feel like an outcast.
Even on test forms, it was confusing trying to understand who I was when the question to fill out was either for Hispanic or white, but not both.
I felt like I had to pick a side. The forms didn’t care if I grew up in Homestead, Florida, where I lived in a Hispanic community and was raised on Hispanic traditions, food and music. These forms and stereotypes make it hard to find a place where I belong.
Being a member of the Latinx community means we are strong and proud, and I must continue to advocate for myself. I am proud to call myself Puerto Rican on my mom’s side and Nicaraguan on my dad’s. I got to grow up with two different types of traditions and customs. So how can you say I’m not Hispanic because I was not born there?
For instance, during the 2020/21 Olympics, a woman runner was competing for Puerto Rico. I thought it was great to hear that I had representation on an Olympic team.
However, I heard others say she only competed for Puerto Rico because her mother is from Puerto Rico. People questioned why they would allow that and how she could be Puerto Rican if she was born in America. I did not understand. If her mother is Puerto Rican, then wouldn’t her daughter be? Why were people trying to diminish her ethnicity because she was born in America? I’m sure others see her race and believe her to be anything but American.
It is tiring moving others who try to shun us from the light, from letting us be us. It is exhausting trying to explain that we exist. Whether it was a boat that brought you to America or you were born in the US, being who we are and representing where we are from is the best thing about celebrating culture. I stand with my heritage when others try and tear it down. I connect with others in my shoes and celebrate our history.
Whether it’s screaming from excitement when we figure out we are from the same country, sharing our love and longing for our cultural family food, or even being a first-gen student that broke the barrier in what seemed like a never-ending cycle of hopelessness, I find connections to my culture everywhere. Yes, I was born in America, but I still carry the heritage of my ancestors with me because they will always be a part of who I am and who I will be.