Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Experiencing Racism Within Your Own Race

"You don't look Puerto Rican."

That statement was made to me countless times throughout my childhood and teen years. It has even followed me into adulthood. The revelation of my ethnicity would come as a shock to those who inquired. The statement that genuinely follows, that I don't "look" Puerto Rican baffled me as a child.  What were Puerto Ricans "suppose" to look like? I didn't know it then but I had fallen victim to being stereo typed. What was worse was that other children and adults who were also of Puerto Rican descent, didn't accept that I was one of them. I was often accused by other Puerto Ricans of lying about my ethnicity. I was called a liar. Surely one of my parents was Caucasian? Perhaps I was too ashamed or confused to confess that either my mother or father was White.

 Both of my grandparents from my Mother and Fathers side of the family were from San Juan. They immigrated to the United States. My mother and father are Americans who were born in this country. I was born in this country. But I am of Puerto Rican descent.

The accusations didn't stop there. Disgusting things were said to me about being another mans daughter. If I was of Puerto Rican descent, why was I so light skinned? Why were my eyes a hazel/green color? Why didn't my parents teach me to speak fluent Spanish?

 "You look like a White girl!"

I was told this by the other Puerto Rican girls whom I confess, looked quite different from me. They had beautiful deep brown skin and nut brown eyes. I did not. They made it very clear they did not consider me one of them. As a result, I had very few Latina friends. Almost none. In High School, one girl threatened to cut my face for no good reason other than the fact that I looked different. Looking back, I now know that they were perhaps jealous. The color of my eyes always seemed to be a topic of aggressive confrontations, so much so that I greatly became ashamed of them. I found myself fiercely wishing I had darker skin and eyes so I would be accepted. I was accused of wearing color contact lenses. Many people demanded that I stick my finger in my eye to "prove" I wasn't wearing contacts. Were they fearful  that I apparently looked so different from them? The answer eludes me. I cannot speak for them.

As I grew older, I accepted how I looked. I even found beauty in it which isn't an easy thing when you are told you are different. Latinas didn't want anything to do with me. I also experienced racism from  people of different backgrounds. I am however happy to report, that in my adult years, I have many friends of Hispanic descent. Not all members of the Hispanic community are narrow minded.

Unfortunately hatred and racism is a part of life. It also exists within your own Race. Individuals who are from the same descent you are, can certainly turn their backs on you for looking different.  You can call it fear. You can call it jealousy. I call it shameful.

My name is Victoria. My fathers parents were from San Juan, Puerto Rico. My mothers parents were from San Juan, Puerto Rico. My parents were born in America. I was born in America. I have light skin. My eyes are green. I don't speak much Spanish. I am of Puerto Rican descent. Like it or not.


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1 comment:

  1. thank you for sharing this powerful personal experience with us