Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I'm a MEXICAN?!
I've struggled for a long time with this post - it is a sensitive topic, but it's been on my mind for a long time now. I hope I do it justice.
First, a little background. I am White. Lily White. Pasty White. I have blue eyes and freckles. Oh So White. My maternal grandmother traced our genealogy, and I'm pretty sure we are Scotch/Irish all the way back to Adam and Eve. MrG is Mexican Hispanic. His mother was born in Mexico, and his father was born in Texas to Mexican immigrants. Legal, I will add, not that it's any of your damn business.
LittleG is a perfect mix of me and her dad. She has beautiful brown eyes and long flowing dark hair like his side of the family. She gets her freckles and her temper from mine. She is quite possibly the most amazing White Caucasian Mexican Hispanic ever born. She also just recently found out she's part Mexican, and the news did not go over well.
We had never addressed the issue of her heritage with her, because for us, it's not an issue. My parents did not teach me to see skin color. Race was never discussed in our home when I was growing up, and clearly it wasn't an issue for MrG's family either, since they took me in to their very family with nary a bump in the road. And thank heavens for that.
And therein lies the problem. Skin color doesn't matter to us, so I guess we just assumed it wouldn't matter to her. Oopsie.
The face that little adorable Juanita makes in the clip above? EXACTLY the one we got when LittleG found out SHE is part Mexican. She is also part Lily White, but that doesn't seem to bother her much.
The only time skin color or race has mattered to me personally is when I've been asked to categorize the race of my daughter. I don't know how to answer that question. She is as White/Caucasian as she is Hispanic/Latino. And yet, there's no box for "Both" when it comes time to assign a race to your child. You're forced to pick one, thereby arbitrarily assigning her to a demographic category that will follow her for the rest of her life.
We saw this last winter when the headlines screamed "Black Man Elected President." Really? The guy is every bit as White as he is African American, but nobody was saying anything about "Half Black Half White Guy" getting elected to anything. I guess Mrs. Obama was forced to choose a box for her kid 48 years ago, and she selected African American over White/Caucasian.
Please don't misunderstand - I TOTALLY get it that we as a nation celebrate the fact that an African American was elected, even if he is part white. African Americans were, for far too long in our country, held as second class citizens, and Barak Obama's rise to the most powerful office in the land has historical significance that we are probably only beginning to understand.
But I don't celebrate his election because he's black. I celebrate because he was the right guy for the job. I voted for him, and in spite of current popular opinion, I would do it again. His skin color didn't have a damn thing to do with why I voted for him. And it shouldn't have mattered to anyone else as far as I'm concerned.
And there's the rub. We just can't look at him as a man. We have to see him as a black man. But as I said, he is as white as he is black. So WTF?
Minority groups have for decades asked for equal treatment - fighting for it, losing their lives in some cases. The civil unrest brought about by folks like Rosa Parks and nine brave students from Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas certainly shook things up back in the 1950s. Cesar Chavez and his band of farm workers took a stand in the 1960s and forever changed the face of migrant farming in our country.
And yet these same groups fight now for recognition and celebration of their races that would never be tolerated for Whites/Caucasians. We have Black Heritage Month, Asian Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanics have their own scholarship programs, 100% race based. We have Essence Magazine, "the black woman's guide to what's hot now."
History months and scholarships, and magazines, oh my!
But what's good for the goose isn't necessarily good for the gander, at least where skin color is concerned.
Can you imagine what would happen if my white brothers and sisters suddenly created their own White History Month? What about their own White Scholarship program? I can hear the motto now, "money for college, but only for the white kids!" And what about Lily White Mag, what every white skinned beyotch needs to know?
The outrage that would follow our celebration of our skin color to the exclusion of others is almost unimaginable. And yet, it's ok for minorities to celebrate their heritage and race, and we are not supposed to complain? Again - WTF?
As our racial groups become more blurred, I think the question of race becomes even harder to answer, and perhaps less important. What happens, for example, if LittleG ends up married to a man who is the son of a Pakistani man and a Korean woman? What little racial box will her kid fit in? Furthermore, why the hell should we care?
I think the answer is that we should just all go blissfully, stupidly colorblind. You want to celebrate your skin color? Do it, whether you're black or brown or white or red. But don't deny me the opportunity to do the same. You want to marry someone who is a different color than you are? Do it. I did, and it worked out pretty damn well.
Until we do go coast-to-coast colorblind, we'll still be forced to fill in our little race box when it comes time to apply for a job (for demographic purposes only, of course!!), get a drivers license, or fill out a a census. We'll still be able to read our racially biased magazines (or not, for us white folks). We'll still check a box on a birth certificate to indicate the racial make up of our child, even if it's only half right.
I think it's just a crying damn shame that my little Mexican kid might have opportunities available to her, or denied to her, that my little white kid might not have. It's too bad colorblind couldn't get here a generation ago.