Melanin Confession: The White Latinx Experience

“Okay, so I—I don’t know where I fit into all of this because I’m half white, half Latino. I’m ethnically-ambiguous, but I think people just assume that I’m white… so I kind of, like, fly under the radar in that sense… It’s really strange because identifying as Latino but coming off as white puts me in a weird position. People of both sides will say anything in front of me, ‘cus they think I’m with them. So I’ve found that I’ve had a lot less ignorant comments directed at me… I find that people feel comfortable saying them with me, even though I’m in a room full of Caucasian students talking about Latinos and I’m like ‘Alright, hold on, time out, I’m here”. Or if I’m in a room full of kids who aren’t white, they’ll be talking about white kids and I’m like ‘Hold on, still here’. I think the strangest time that happened was when I was with a group of people—mostly white students; a couple of black students were around—and someone was rapping and came to the part where he was supposed to say the N-word. And he kinda just cut off, and looked around the room… then these two girls started whispering and said ‘Oh, now that the room is diversified we can’t say that anymore’. And I got really uncomfortable for the obvious reasons… the assumption that we were in a white space and that minority students sort of invited themselves in really bothered me. I was raised with Puerto Rican pride; my dad always told me ‘be proud of being Latino, be proud’. So I felt kind of indirectly… not attacked, but sort of… othered, in that sense. Like I was in their space, even though it was everyone’s space. And so I didn’t say anything; I just totally let them off the hook. And it was also sort of strange because I didn’t want to correct them and bring up the issue of ‘what are you?’, ‘you don’t look x, y or z’…

I think there are a lot of people at Bard who have the right idea about talking about race and approaching it. And I don’t want to tell this story and ignore those people who consciously try to be aware of the space they’re in and how they welcome people into the space because there’s a lot of good things that do happen. But I think there’s a lack of confidence a lot of times at Bard in terms of how people talk about things. Like in classrooms, people have really interesting thoughts, but they preface them with ‘oh, I don’t have any experience with this, so…’. I think one of the best things you can do for someone is to prove them wrong. People should be conscious of where they are and who’s in the room—not only their words but their demeanor and inflection—but I think a lot of that awkwardness could be alleviated if people just said what they wanted to. I don’t know if that makes any sense…

The other side of it are people who think they’re doing the right thing and do it with such confidence—like the people in my story—but they’re just not. I remember there was some awful yak about someone wanting their summer tan goals to be like getting searched at an airport, as if that was a skin color. And then I remembered my parents being interrogated and it was humiliating and awful… It’s a false comparison… In order to move beyond this awkward place, you have to speak with confidence… know that you could be wrong, and be prepared to deal with that. And I’ve encountered either people who have really good thoughts and don’t know how to present them, or [people who] have really, really wrong opinions and thoughts and think they’re doing a service by voicing them, and I think those two ends of the spectrum need to be corrected.”

– Confused


Interview by Bianka Bell

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