Not long ago, a friend whose parents are of different races made a comment concerning her identity. She identifies herself as one race with the public, but I feel that she is a bit confused when she is not totally accepted by those she identifies with. I am a product of multiple races, as are many of my friends – most who will admit it, but as I do, I just leave it for those who question my origins to ask if they are curious enough. How do you identify yourself?
Several years ago, while living in a northwest city of the U.S. State of Wisconsin, I had befriended a younger adult man at the business where I worked. A few weeks after meeting and working with him, we happened to see each other at a local gas station and started a conversation. Somewhere in that conversation he asked me about my racial background. I chuckled (as I usually do when asked this), and proceeded to tell him about my racial heritage. We spoke some more, then we parted company. We continued our friendship up till the time I left the area.
In other places I’ve lived, such as Chicago, many have identified me as a Latino – by word of mouth per my mother’s side of the family, there is a Portuguese line as well. My point here is, I allow others to determine what they choose because I only consider myself as a person who lives in a diverse world.
Speaking of Chicago, years ago a friend and I were dining in one of my favorite restaurants in a northern suburb of Chicago. A young and very nice college student was our waitress. By all appearances, she was a young caucasian girl with very fair (not pale) skin, but she had curly hair. We had established a comfortable rapport with her, so I asked which European country her family came from. Her answer surprised me: she stated that she knew her family has a mix of Black (African) dating back a couple of generations or so, and she like me, didn’t make a big deal of it – it’s there, but I am who I am.
Now, I live in Mexico and not long ago, a student of mine started a conversation about identity here in Mexico. His statement was that most Mexicans have an identity crisis. This is because after the Spaniards came and conquered, they managed to kill – whether by force, or by contagious diseases, many of the indigenous people here, then ‘intermarried’ causing a lot of offspring which has resulted in a nation of far more mixed races than indigenous. Along with the Spanish are the French who wanted to claim Mexico, so there are mixtures of Spanish, French and because of escaped slaves from the U.S. and the Mexican-American “wars”, there are other mixtures. This has been written about in a book by Octavio Paz, “The Labyrinth of Solitude“. Here in Mexico, the people are generally loving and accepting of most everyone, with one exception (still being a general statement), they don’t like the “Indians”, or as we might say, the indigenous people. I suspect it’s because they hold on to their “native ways”.
For me and those I’ve met who have interracial backgrounds, I’ve found that those of us who accept our “diversity”, we lead healthy lives when we accept our diversity as a unique aspect of life. We have less stress about who will accept us, how we appear to others and when we accept those who accept us for who and what we are rather than who and what we want others to see. We see more value in what we have to share with others, rather than having a concern about how we appear.
In the U.S.A., there still exists a division of races, partially because of its history, but now because many feel that there is something to be lost if they drop that identity. Sadly, many do not see themselves as “Americans”, but they feel the need to place an adjective before the word American. Here in Mexico and other Latin American countries, those who are born there, no matter the racial mixture, are addressed as their nationality – no adjectives implied. Does a “racial caste system” still exist? Yes, in some countries, for sure, but others will address you according to how you present yourself, even if you have to apply confidence, not forcefully, but confidently with love and acceptance for everyone. The moment others sense an air of arrogance in you, you may have lost your plea for acceptance.
If you are one who has a multi-racial, multi-cultural background, my advice is to accept and love yourself (not in a narcissistic manner), and focus on what your role in society is, and those who matter will accept you and your uniqueness, and a happy life will be yours.
I hope this has helped.