Columns, Opinion

Culture Shock: Americans can’t see past race

If you are anything other than white in America, life is complicated. As a minority, you have most likely faced prejudice and discrimination at some point in your life. America’s reluctance to be inclusive is nothing new, but I think the conversation of acceptance in society often fails to recognize those who are not just one race.

America is a melting pot, and I fall into the category of “melting.” I am African American and Mexican — blaxican if you will. Most teenagers have an identity crisis at some point in their life, it’s almost a rite of passage. You sit in your room and think to yourself, who are my real friends, what do I want to do with my life?

As a biracial person, I’ve had more than one identity crisis. In fact, I would categorize it as a culture crisis. My entire life, I have grown up in a school environment that lacked diversity. So all of my friends are white, and I’ve naturally become incredibly whitewashed. 

Despite all that whitewashing, I am still coined as the black friend. More specifically, I’m coined “the whitest black girl” that anyone has met. This not-so-lighthearted label makes it difficult for me to embrace black culture. I feel like I can’t do things of my own culture, like get braids because instead of it being a normal thing, I would get some insane reaction from others.

These reactions make me feel like an exotic zoo animal. People want to touch my hair and ask “What are you?” to try and put me in some sort of category.  Nothing makes me feel like less of a human than this question, and it reinforces my fear that people will never see me for more than the color of my skin. 

And in spite of their keen observations, people are too ignorant to recognize that I am clearly mixed-race. I have thick, curly hair and light-brown skin. And thanks to this Boston winter, my usual caramel glow is looking rather milky.

No one recognizes the Mexican part of me, which is reasonable as I don’t openly identify as Mexican. I’m very vocal about black movements and pride, so I can see where the confusion comes from. But my Mexican background should count for something. I still don’t feel accepted by the Mexican community from that perspective of looking and seeming too black. 

But, am I really?

I didn’t have a close black friend until I was a junior in high school and to me, that felt like I wasn’t black enough. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be a part of the community. Sometimes, I feel resentment from other black people because I am light-skinned with a nice curl pattern. 

Apparently, that equates to me having it easier in life.

I don’t feel truly connected with two major parts of my life. And of course, I am not white enough to fit in with my friends or society. I am tired of discrimination and I am tired of feeling ostracized in this country. We are supposed to be moving towards a wider acceptance of cultures, but just wondering, can we move faster?

The next time you meet someone who is not white, instead of spending the whole conversation wondering what their ethnicity is, why don’t you just have a conversation with them? 

I don’t think the topic of race is ever going to be something that we can completely move on from in the United States and honestly? It shouldn’t be. Race and culture make you who you are and it’s an important aspect of identity, but it should never be a basis for bigotry, hatred or prejudice.

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