My Other Half
White is a color too.
Technically, I’m “diluted,” if you will. I’m amutt, a mix, a Heinz 57. A half-blood, if you’re a Harry Potter fan. My Father was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. His family has deep Hispanic, African, and native roots. My mother, on the other hand, was born in Cincinnati. My maternal grandfather is Irish, and my maternal grandmother is Czech and Hungarian. So, to say I’m diverse is a bit of an understatement.
Interestingly enough, though, I primarily identify myself as a Latina. You will hear me refer to myself as Hispanic before you would hear me say I’m an Irish gal. Why is that? Why would any mixed person narrowly define themselves or pick one race over another?
For me, part of it is that I look like a Latina. I’m short, curvaceous, and my hair is jet-black. I also have the temperament of a stereotypical Hispanic woman. My maiden name is a rare Hispanic surname. I speak Spanish like the daughter of a native Puerto Rican would. I occasionally slip and speak “Spanglish” or pronounce words like my father used to.
Moreover,I believe that I define myself as such because we live in a society of labels. There is not one facet of modern day society that doesn’t require us to be labeled or defined racially. Look at anything we do – any piece of our day to day life. I donate blood, and I have to identify my race. For jobs, for medical purposes, for pretty much everything in life, we need to select our ethnic background. Look at the census! We have to select a race and an ethnicity.
My point is this: we are told that we must identify ourselves by the color of our skin. One way or another, our society tells us that we cannot be just human. Instead, we must belong to a certain class, group, or denomination of humanity.
Really? Why? What could possibly be the point of identifying yourself by something as superficial as the pigment of your skin? I certainly have not gained anything by labeling myself as Hispanic. I have no benefits by identifying myself as one race or another. Truthfully, there is no point. My skin could be purple and it still wouldn’t change the fact that I am a human being.
It’s frustrating that our society is so focused on the superficial. That our “culture” tells us that it’s important to assign a status to someone based on their melanin. My assessment by others should be based solely on the kind of person I am: who I am, how I treat people, what I do. Instead, from billboards to bills in congress, we are all identified by our pigmentation.
Call me Utopian (or foolishly naïve and optimistic), but I long for a day when we see people for who they are, not what they are. I would like to simply be Lauren and leave it at that, not Lauren the Latina. Something tells me that all people would rather be who they are, rather than what they look like or how dark their skin is. Perhaps one day we will. Who’s to say that one day we won’t all live simply as humans? Anything is possible. But for now, this is where our society is. Until that day when we can all simply exist as human beings, we must do our best to look beyond the labels.