Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Nezua lays it down.

I wonder if those coming to la lucha these days understand how long anti-Mexican sentiment has been part of US conversation. I think all of us Mexican Americans understand. And other brown™ folk, as a matter of course. I will tell you, in case it is not immediately easy to infer from what I write: Anti-Mexican sentiment has been part of the background of society's conversation—books, movies, jokes, TV shows—ever since I first learned how to speak and listen. All of my life. It is not new. All this Buchanan talk, all this Tancredo talk, all this white supremacist bullshit that tries to dress itself up in a hundred different ways. It doesn't have to do with HR 4437 or even Prop 187 or the War on Terror. That's one reason why it is so infuriating or insulting. These voices simply have a foothold now. An excuse. But they've always been there. I just lived with it after a while. You learn to duck, to defer.

I've gradually come out of my shell, more and more. And each inch I have moved forward is one I can never move back.

. . .

When I met up with my biological father finally, it was a shock to the system in a few ways. Mostly racial, or ethnic. As I've said, I thought I was "white." That means both when Marlene counted me in as "mexican' I was surprised to be included, and when my father and his familia talked about "white people" at the table, I felt insulted. It was a hard time, figuring out who I was. It's been a hard time, between now and then. With people who can either treat me as if I am Xicano, or as if I am white. And you can never tell which will be which. Like Jessica Alba, I feel as if neither world fully accepts me. Although the acceptance I get from the brown world is always nourishing, always empowering. And the acceptance from the white world, when it thinks I am not brown, is always degrading, debasing. If you can understand that, then you understand a lot.

My father asked me a year or two after he met me, "Why are all your girlfriends white?" Which seemed a very strange question to me. (Aside from not completely true, as the second girl I was ever with was black.) It took me a few years to answer. At which point I said "How can you ask me that? You picked my mother, and she was white!" But I hadn't yet realized that my mother was but a brief foray into a world that my father did not really feel part of, nor want to, nor would he again enter in such a way. He was young, less sure of who he was and what he wanted, and he only stayed long enough to make my existence in that world (as well as my brother, five years younger than me) a reality. And then he stepped out.

It's not a secret to me what the taint of whiteness means to my father. Even if he never says it out loud, and even if he refuses to admit it. I am too old to be fooling myself with other peoples' personally-fashioned illusions. I understand that he, as a person who wants to be decent and kind, cannot tell me these things outright. Perhaps he is even ashamed of his own feelings. Perhaps he even thinks he is (or actually is) past that, and now sees everyone equally. It doesn't matter. And I don't want to guess at his reality too much, nor psychoanalyze him. But his actions and words over the years spoke their own truth.

Nor can my my mother fully understand this path. Nor can most of my friends. Not the white ones. And not all the "brown" ones. Not the ones who don't deal with a "mixed" identity.

But this is my path, and this is for me to be at peace with. Or not. Like all the difficult battles in my life, this is for me to come to understand in my own way.

Also, XicanoPwr has a rebuttal to those who believe we live in a post-racial America.

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