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More than Just a Color Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Pekky Marquez, United States May 9, 2003
Human Rights  


Hispanic/Latino: that's the way how my race, or my ethnicity for that matter is defined. Coming from a country where race was generally a color of skin, and where classifying heritages is next to impossible due to the amazing racial integration of my people, the first time I read and had to select this ethnic background to identify myself as that came with a sense of shock.

Identifying as a Hispanic/Latina has had positive and negative sides for me. Among the negatives, I have found that a lot of people had confused me as "Mexican." While I have nothing against people from Mexico (and in fact, I have friends and acquaintances from there), Venezuelans have different expressions of the culture; different music, different foods, different slangs. I didn't feel that uncomfortability for myself only, but also from countless of other Latin Americans (and even Spaniards, since they speak Spanish) whose countries have each a unique tradition. I also was aware that I will always belong to a so-called "ethnic minority" in this country. To add more, since not everybody thinks I look Hispanic (sometimes I have been perceived as 'white'), I have felt terrible about having privileges that people of my kind do not have if they don't have my looks. And people of whom I thought would be my natural allies (some blacks), would be rude to me or any member of my family just because we looked Hispanic to them, or because they hear us speaking Spanish.

Another very negative side I find about this, is the fact that I wish I could publicly identify simply as "human" in order to protest the injustices and racism me and many other dear people to me suffer day by day; but in doing so, I feel guilty because I might unintentionally come off as a "race traitor" who has a problem of internalized racism. And my pale skin doesn't help either.

On the positive side, however, Hispanic/Latina has benefited me in a lot of ways. The upside of being aware of my belonging to a so-called racial minority reaffirmed my anti-racist values, learning even more to see people as human beings. I have learned to think critically about the stereotypes, not only assigned by society, but also the ones I might have had in my own head. It had made me also be aware of some internalized oppression I might have as a Latina and as a woman, and made me fight side by side for the equal privileges of sexual minorities, along with racial and class ones.

Personally, I don't consider Hispanic/Latino as a race, if by race people understand a more or less fixed heritage, looks, color of skin in many generations of a family... However, the fact that it is categorized as a race makes me happy, because it can be taken as an opportunity to challenge racist ideas, especially if they come from Institutionalized Racism. Hispanic/Latino is an ethnicity constructed of many races, many heritages, and as rich and mixed as the mixture of various cultures that have come to our countries.

Some Hispanics can be confused with Latin Indigenous tribes; others can be mistaken by Africans; some have very light skin and/or hair and/or eyes, and are read as 'white'; and another group is Jewish, either ethnically or both the former and religiously; there are those who can be mistaken as Middle Eastern, as South Asians, there are also those of us who have a chameleonic look and can be read as one more member of a group of people of a specific ethnicity we are with... It doesn't matter; Latinos come in all colors, shapes, forms, reflecting the universality of looks like few other races.

As Hispanic/Latinos, especially those of us who live in such a multicultural society as the United States of America, we need to be proud of our identity, of our diverse heritage, about the fact that discriminating other races is discriminating a part of ourselves. We can be an example for other people with multi-ethnic backgrounds, motivating them to stand up and be proud of themselves; we can be an inmense challenge for those who try to categorize us; we can look for the fraternity of other ethnicities who strive for this "Unity in Diversity"; and finally we can be an example to ourselves to question our own internalized stereotypes and oppression.

For this and other reasons, I am very proud of calling myself Hispanic or Latina and coming from where I come from. Perhaps one day, I can join other forces for finally categorizing all people into the only category there should be: "Human Beings."



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Pekky Marquez

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Great article :)
aclam | May 12th, 2003
I like how you brought up the fact that discrimination exists within groups as well as between groups.

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