Have you ever seen the Selena movie? There’s a part where Selena’s dad says, “We got to prove to the Mexicans how Mexican we are, and we got to prove to the Americans how American we are, we gotta be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time. It’s exhausting. Damn. Nobody knows how tough it is to be a Mexican American.”
Well, Mr.Quintanilla, try adding one more culture into the mix.
You see, I look white. And while most white people have never thought about how “looking white” affects them....well, me? If you read my last blog post, you know that my world was rocked when I found out I didn’t shared the same dad as my siblings. My white skin was the prompt of a lifelong journey of questions asking something along the lines, “Your dad is BLACK?!” It’s been a lifelong battle of trying to figure out what the right answer is… “Yes, he’s black, but I am not black, but I thought I was black, but, no, I’m not black, and no, he’s not my stepdad, he’s actually my DAD, but no, he’s not my biological father.” I’ve learned that I just say, “Yes, he’s my dad” and stop trying to appease people’s curiosity, unless it’s time to tell my whole story.
And, there’s also this little fact of not being fluent in Spanish, so I certainly have never been Mexican enough (Let’s just look over the fact that AncestryDNA just told me I am only 18% Mexican…I’ve had enough cultural identity stripped from me, haha!). I am obviously not black enough. And I grew up with way too much black and Hispanic culture to be American enough. Who am I? Where do I fit in?
God only knows how many papers I wrote on this during my time in my Master’s program. I never realized how deeply this all affected me as I was growing up. How deeply it still affects me. I take pride in my unique upbringing, but it’s also left me with a sense of confusion at times, of not knowing where I stand.
Who am I? Where do I fit in?
I felt, at times, ostracized even in my own family, because there they are in their gorgeous ethnic glory, every single one of them blessed with musical and artistic creativity that I don’t own ounce of. Who am I? Where do I fit in? And now…where does my son fit in?
What surprised me recently, is discovering that my sisters felt this way. Sophia was recently invited to a black girl’s society in her dorm hall, and after she left the meeting, she sent a text message to the family — “I realized for the first time today...I am not black enough for the other black girls.” To which Hannah said, “same, Sophia.” It made me feel an indescribable emotion....sadness? Loneliness? to realize…we don’t know where we belong. It’s not just me with my white features…these ethnic beauties still are “less than enough” for any one culture.
And then I had a revelation yesterday. I was driving home from the gym, listening to my girl Jenna Kutcher on the Goal Digger Podcast (because, duh, do you know me?) and she had Iskra as her guest. And there was one sentence that absolutely floored me.
“If do not see yourself represented,
you are the representation.”
It’s like it hit me out of nowhere. I never realized how much power there is in our mixed identities. We don’t need to be black, Mexican, or white “enough”, because there is power in representing our mixed cultures, our mixed upbringing, and mixed racial backgrounds. We are representatives of a new culture, a new era, a new beauty. And brands are starting to recognize that! Thanks to brands like Aerie, who started the AerieReal movement, celebrating women of all shapes, colors, ethnicities.
So, cheers to those unique beauties. Cheers to the babies with two different colored parents, cheers to those who don’t know which box to check, which category to fit in. Cheers to the ones who are their own representation. Cheers to these bi-cultural, tri-cultural male and females who have always tried to be “more Mexican than the Mexicans” and more “American than the Americans”. Stop trying…you are perfect just the way you are.