Identities: My life as a Mestizaje
The struggle of identifying as both white and Hispanic
Editor's Note: The author's name has been updated to reflect their legal name.
I am Cuban-American, the child of a white American mother and a Hispanic Cuban father.
I took an AncestryDNA test in high school and was not surprised to find that my ethnicities align with the majority race of people in the countries from which my ancestry is traced. What I realized was that I did not know which race I identified myself with. I have always selected both the white and Hispanic race options, or the Hispanic option but not “white (non-Hispanic)” whenever asked. Although throughout my life I had acknowledged differences between these two races based on familial relations, it did not occur to me until then that I am biracial.
Family members of mine have asked why I am proud to be Latinx but not German, even though I am only a small percentage German. I have also been asked why I refer to myself as Cuban-American instead of “American-Cuban,” which, having been stunned by the ignorance of the question, I did not provide the answer. I do not “celebrate” being German because I was brought up hearing the Spanish language, eating Hispanic food, listening to Hispanic music, and taking part in Hispanic traditions, all of which I continue to do and none of which I have done for any aspect of the German culture. I am also a small percentage African, but I do not identify as African because that is not my lived experience, that is not who I am. It has been suggested I should have “white pride” instead of Hispanic pride, further making me shamelessly Latinx and proud.
In high school, a friend of mine implied I am not “brown” enough to be Hispanic, and struggling to prove identity with either race is a challenge I have faced frequently throughout my life.
Politically, being Hispanic and compassionate for Central American refugees, I do not agree with white members of my family who believe immigrants traveling to the southern United States border seeking asylum should be met with the fire and fury of firing squads, nor that undocumented immigrants who live in America should be deported to other countries. It is evident that views often held by members of my two racial identities clash with one another, which undoubtedly makes expressing my political ideologies considerably difficult.
I will never face discrimination based on the color of my skin and I do not consider myself ‘white-passing’ because I am part white. I do not face the same discrimination as other Hispanics with darker skin tones, as my father had. I will most likely never be ignorantly told by some racist to “Go back to Mexico,” or asked to provide evidence of my documentation by a deportation agent. I acknowledge this privilege guilt-free and listen to the experiences of my fellow Hispanic peers who face frequent racial discrimination. When I began my freshman year of college, I sought out the two prominent Latinx organizations on campus. American University does not have a large percentage of Latinx students, and I joined the communities whose culture I identify with. As club and executive board members, we discussed our experiences with one another and felt both empowered and motivated to foster change while learning about our identity in our school, in the nation and in the world.
We need to challenge people who say that "labels" such as Black, Hispanic, Jewish, Muslim, or Native American are best kept quiet. These are not labels, these are communities. What needs to end are the labels incorrectly assigned to the aforementioned groups of people. It is dangerous to pretend everyone is treated equally by “not seeing race” so when certain groups of people are mistreated, their attackers can claim they weren’t acts of hate. People will only tell you to stop "labeling" yourself when members of your community are thriving.
Marginalized people haven't been given equal rights, treatment, or opportunities throughout history. As minorities make strides of progress in the world, people want their identities to be erased rather than letting minorities be recognized as historic achievers from the communities they identify with. There is all the difference between putting people into groups in order to discriminate against them, and allowing people who identify with different communities be proudly and unapologetically themselves. One cannot be accepting of people without recognizing them. Ignoring them is to pretend they do not exist.
I refuse to allow anyone to ignore any part of me out of existence.
I am proud to be a Mestizaje.
Amari Pulido is a freshman in the School of International Service. They are an outside contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.