Continued Thoughts on Race and Latinidad in The United States

Earlier this year I wrote a post asserting that ethnicity is not equivalent to race. And in the United States, we tend to get it twisted.
I’ve given a lot of thought to my own experiences with racism, as a light-skinned Mestiza. I’m finding that actually, much of what I’ve experienced looks a lot more like xenophobia than racism. Granted, while the latter often informs the former, most awful treatment I’ve received had a lot more to do with my name, language, culture and citizenship than how I actually look. Sure, I’ve been burned by comments about my body type and features before. But my skin tone and position as a college-educated U.S. citizen has made me much more of a novelty than a threat to white Americans. I’m an Other, but like, the kind of Other you carefully scrutinize under a microscope, not the kind of Other you set out to subjugate and destroy.

The Cuban side of my family is following the trajectory of Italians and other “ethnic whites,” in that they’ve become assimilated white Americans. Meanwhile the Belizean side of my family is more closely tied to their Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous heritage, or at least some of the cultural practices. But both sides seem confused as to why I identify more strongly with their respective cultures more than I identify with being from the United States. Perhaps it’s because no matter how much I have tried, I still feel like an outsider among white Americans. Those of us 1.5 and 2nd generation Latin@ kids seem to have our own thing going on, something that’s set apart from our white US citizen peers and our immigrant families. My identity is more tied to a diaspora than to a fixed place.

That said, I don’t even know how useful it is to identify as a woman of color anymore. For a long time I felt solidarity with other women of color, like in my own experiences in being fetishized, being patronized by white people, or seeing family members racially profiled and incarcerated. But I often feel more like a moving target than part of a stable, specific group of oppressed people. To many white people, I’m not white, and to many black and brown people, I am. I think that race itself is a moving target, a fluid type of category that also changes its significance with time and space. But who knows? Maybe it’s not my call to make anymore.


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