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The Identity Challenges of Living on the Border
I was recently asked about the struggles I’ve faced with my identity while living on the border. This article delves into my personal experiences on the matter. While I acknowledge my privileged position, I also want to use that privilege to speak out as an ally.
Being “Too White” in Mexico
Growing up in Mexico, I faced constant criticism for being “too white.” I remember how my friends would tease me for not enjoying reggaeton, claiming it was because I was “too white” for that kind of music.
After a few years, I actually started to appreciate that genre. But instead of acceptance, I was once again told that I was “too white” to listen to it. It was as if I was being judged no matter what I did. People weren’t okay with me embracing Latin music, yet they also disapproved when I didn’t enjoy it.
This lose-lose situation deeply affected me, even though it may seem trivial to complain about it now. As a teenager, these things weighed heavily on my mind. It made me realize that certain topics were off-limits to me because I was considered “too white” or too privileged to have a valid opinion on them.
Unfair Treatment and Frustration
In some ways, my fair skin has earned me privileged treatment in Mexico. However, my family is not entirely white, and it’s disheartening to witness the difference in how my sister and I are treated when we’re together. It frustrates me not knowing how to address such inequality. Furthermore, it’s frustrating to be seen as a complainer when I express my discomfort with being treated better than others.
Even within my family, my grandmother frequently emphasizes how “beautiful” my skin color is in front of my cousins and siblings. This behavior infuriates me.
Lessons from My Mother
Fortunately, my mother played a significant role in shaping my mindset. She would often remind me that if I were to be special, it should be based on my accomplishments rather than my appearance. She taught me that being praised for my skin color was a sign of ignorance. Thanks to her, I understand that my worth should never be tied to my skin color. Nor should anyone’s worth be defined by such superficial criteria.
The Complexities of Labeling
When I first had to complete paperwork in the United States, I encountered checkboxes asking me to identify myself as white, Hispanic or Latina, black, and so on. This was perplexing to me because while I am Latina, I have always been labeled as “white.” In Mexico, such questions are not typically asked. When I moved to the U.S., I felt that I could blend in as long as I didn’t speak up.
It was disconcerting to witness how people initially treated me well, only to dramatically change their behavior once they heard my accent or discovered that I was Mexican. Comments like “you don’t look Mexican” or “I didn’t expect you to be Mexican because you look so white” became all too common. Some even tried to pass these remarks off as compliments when they noticed my discontent.
Challenging Preconceived Notions
So, what do Mexicans look like to you? It’s disheartening to realize the numerous misconceptions people hold about the appearance of Mexicans. Unfortunately, being bombarded with such questions becomes a part of everyday life, and it never ceases to be exasperating.
I firmly believe that these misconceptions and prejudices are deeply rooted in our cultural psyche. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to challenge and change these prejudices.
Evoking Social Change
Like any form of social change, progress takes time and requires advocates who are willing to fight for it. Perhaps, by sharing my perspective, those who unconsciously treat people differently based on their skin color will reflect on their actions and strive to become better. If this article leads to even a single person altering their perspective, then it will have served its purpose.
Note: The original article contains the email address of the author, but it has been removed to adhere to the guidelines and focus solely on the content.