Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Identity — When you're mixed race but your name and looks mean you're "yet another white guy."

There is a frustrating aspect to the fact that in the US these days, discussions of background are so frequently tied up with discussions of discrimination and oppression. It means that someone like me, who doesn't look Hispanic enough to have someone making negative assumptions about me, and who doesn't have a Hispanic last name, ends up seeming like he'd be somehow faking to talk about coming from a Hispanic background.

As racial problems go, being dismissed as "yet another white guy" by politically active online warriors is the most first world of problems, so I'm not exactly here to complain. But it is a rather cut-off feeling at times. I'm proud of the stories of my ancestors who walked across the US/Mexican boarder around 1900. I'm proud of my grandfather who excelled at his studies despite having to go to the schools for Mexican kids rather than the ones for white kids in the little mining town in New Mexico where he grew up. And I'm proud of the American identity that he built for himself and his children, through a career in the Navy starting in 1945 when he has seventeen. I wish that the way that the US talked about race didn't mean that if you weren't oppressed because of your background, you can't claim it without seeming like a poser.
This is a good piece by Darwin over at Darwin Catholic.

I don't have this problem but was bemused once by a friend lamenting the fact that our parish was so white. I told her that over half the people I knew during the Mass time we both attended were Hispanic but didn't stand out particularly in any way. They looked like middle class Americans, that's all.

And then it occurred to me. "Hey, wait. You're part Hispanic. And so is your husband."

True enough. Their family name is Irish and if I hadn't heard many stories of their families I'd have thought they both came from Anglo-Irish backgrounds simply going on looks. She looked embarrassed and said, "Oh! I guess I was judging by class instead of ethnicity." It was an interesting moment for me. And, I think, possibly for my friend too.

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