No one ever talks about it. Sometimes it feels like no one cares, like it doesn’t matter that you are hurting my feelings with every look and that same poorly phrased question: “What are you?” It’s incredible how one question can provoke so much fire within my heart.
Growing up as a half-white, half-hispanic girl, was never boring to say the least. I remember from a very young age being asked the simple question, “What are you?” Are you Indian? No, no, no, you must be Armenian or are you Greek? Well, I was never any of those things, and that question was never as simple as it sounded.
Being surrounded by people of different cultures, languages, religions, and backgrounds, it was almost customary for someone to ask. Their questions were always fueled with curiosity and wonder to learn the story behind my green eyes and my racially ambiguous face. It seemed to me that everyone always thought I was something that I’m just not. Behind every look and every question I can see society’s tendencies to label people into certain categories; even if I never checked in wit a certain box.
Sometimes it felt hard to fit in…do I hang out with the white crowd or the hispanic girls. Why should it even matter so much in the first place? Not to mention my guilt for not being able to speak Spanish. I grew up listening to Colombian music and dancing to the beat while saving time to eat delicious Arepas and Empanadas, but not being able to speak Spanish made all of those things seem irrelevant. Can I say I’m Colombian if I don’t speak Spanish? What do people see when they look at me? I struggle to answer so many of these questions, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to understand my identity.
What always confused me the most, was what racial/ethnic box to check for school records. Every time has been different, sometimes they put hispanic under a race, other times they put it under ethnicity…talk about confusing. I also didn’t just want to identify with being hispanic, what about my mom? I couldn’t just disregard her despite my slightly tinted complexation. Sometimes it feels like I don’t belong anywhere. Once in awhile, a multiracial box will come up and a wave of relief washes over me, knowing I have a place on that answer sheet. I want to make something very clear, multiracial doesn’t just refer to black and white. Mixed means mixed, half white, half hispanic, half asian, etc.
It’s gotten easier over time to explain to people my ethnic background, my story, my identity, and who I am. After recently getting my Ancestry DNA done, I have come to realize that I am so much more than white and hispanic. I descend from all over the world, I am the product of different people from all different walks of life, and I’m so proud of that.
The world is changing one step at a time, progressively becoming different. Hopefully soon the amount of ethnically mysterious, racially ambiguous people will increase, and I won’t feel as lonely. And maybe people will learn to think before they speak and not be so quick to assume “what I am,” because I am so much more than just my race.
My ethnicity does not define me. My appearance does not define me. My race, my gender, my religion, my sexual orientation, my financial background does not define me. What defines you?