When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I wasn't white. Did any of the rest of you do that? My name was Gabriella Romero, I was Hispanic (not from a particular country; I was just Hispanic), and my hair looked like this. Sure, I was probably influenced by Sesame Street, Ghostwriter, and other such shows that made a point of racial/ethnic diversity. But even more than that was my firsthand experience of tightly knit families with a strong cultural identity.
According to Wikipedia (which quotes the US Census Bureau), my hometown is made up of approximately 25% White, 23% Hispanic/Latino, 20% Indian (from India), 10% African American, 8% Asian, and 14% Misc/Other. So it's no surprise that my grammar school graduating class of 24 had about even numbers of Puerto Rican, Punjabi Indian, Filipino, with maybe twice as many whites as any one other group. My best friend from the middle school years, Shevy, is so Indian that in her extended family, only the kids speak English or wear street clothes in the house (and even then, only sometimes). When Alyssa first came over from the Philippines at age four, she and I became friends despite the language barrier, so thoroughly that our immediate families come to each other's extended family gatherings. Distant Filipino "relatives" I don't even recognize (and I have a pretty good memory for faces) have come up to me and said, "Hi, Claire, how are you? How's college in Ohio? You're almost done, right?" (Note that this is the only English they'd speak at a given party).
Many of the friends I made at youth group were Hispanic (let's be honest: most of the friends I made at youth group were Boriqua!), which just showed me another side of what I was missing. My high school had a large Haitian population, and I received what I felt were high compliments when these girls welcomed me as one of their own. In short: I lived in the thick of the racial/ethnic melting pot, and I loved every second of it!
Enter college. I don't know the exact statistics for my alma mater, but I think it's safe to say that the campus is at least 85% white (and that's being generous to the minorities). I learned that diversity doesn't have to mean that you're not white, and found out quite a lot about ways of life in different parts of the United States. But I was still aware of how ridiculously, unrealistically white our campus was.
It's not that I spend a lot of time in ethnically diverse communities anymore, even though I'm back home where such communities exist. Part of my desire for a cultural identity has been met in my discovery of Catholic culture, something that has belonged to me all along. It helps, too, that I now know how to cook a few signature Polish dishes, so I feel like I at least have that going for me.
But I'm still white. There is a satirical blog called Stuff White People Like. It is absolutely hilarious, well-written, and remarkably accurate. And I cannot read it. It makes me downright uncomfortable with being white. I have actually caught myself trying to change who I naturally am because it fits into the stereotype so effectively mocked on that site. A few weeks ago, when I was in LA, I found myself very irked by the system of "White Points" that Aaron applied to things (e.g., shopping at Trader Joe's, buying organic), though his comments were very funny and were appreciated by all around us.
Which brings me to a realization: Some part of me, deep down, is actually uncomfortable with the fact that I'm white! On one level, I relish my whiteness. I know intellectually that I have it easy because racism won't really ever be a factor in my life. I also thoroughly enjoy European things - cultures, food, languages, their whole way of life. And a lot of the stereotypically white activities are things that I /do/ really enjoy. Heck, I'm more attracted to white men. But on the other hand, there is a beauty and a mystery and a coolness that comes with being, well, not white, that I will never know. Perhaps it's just the allure of the exotic. But whatever it is, I need to let it go. Because I am white, and I always will be white. And it's about time I got over it.
EDIT: I have learned that reverse racism is quite a bit more ridiculous than what I've described, but I'm not changing the URL.
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