Do you ever stumble upon something that sticks with you even after you’ve long finished reading it? Perhaps it’s even just the headline of an article that sticks out to you so much that you can’t even bring yourself to read further because of the way it makes you feel.
Why am I mentioning this? Well, the other day, I came across something that didn’t really surprise me so much as it made me a little upset. I’d seen a headline that said that more and more Latinos in the United States were identifying as white on the census. I couldn’t believe it. They were just identifying as something they were not?
That got me thinking. What could possibly possess someone to completely abandon their own identity? Then it hit me- they did it to escape a life of negativity and oppression.
Of course, simply checking the box next to “white” on the census wouldn’t be enough, but in doing so, it would be a step towards abandoning the culture they have so that they could become fully “Americanized.” Latinos, like many other people of color in the United States, often become the butt of unkind jokes and terrible stereotypes that could greatly affect everyday life. In light of the recent political actions and decisions taken, it could become more relevant in the reality of living as a Latino in the U.S. What do some of these people do to escape that harsh reality? Let go of everything that makes them different from their white, “more American” neighbors. Moreover, Latinos are a very diverse group of people so for some, identifying as white would be easier to get away with than for others.
But that doesn’t mean that it should be done.
I do understand the reasoning behind it to an extent. Oppression can lead anyone into an act of desperate escape and this could be in the form of withholding the teaching of Spanish, abandoning cultural traditions, and striving to move to “white” neighborhoods. However, my brain cannot wrap its head around literally changing one’s own identity for the sake of making life easier. To me, that is giving in to the oppression and letting those who scorn a diverse America win. Although I’ve been fortunate to have a good life and surround myself with people who accept me for the proud Latina I am, it doesn’t mean that I cannot sympathise with Latinos who have not been as fortunate.
I do know that things are not equal for us and that there are stigmas that are still very real about who we are. The only way to combat that is to hold on to the culture and language as best as one can and never let go of that image of a diverse America full of different groups of people.
In fact, I’ll go out and say it here: I am NOT white and I never will be. I will never simply change my race and cultural identity because people cannot accept me. People can say what they want, but I will never change who I am. Acceptance is key and always will be.