Hispanic is not a race…it is a ethnicity. The condition Hispanic describes a group of people whose common thread is language and/or culture. I am a Spanish woman born in Argentina of Korean parents. I identify as Hispanic/Latina and my personal experiences cannot be summed up by the color of my skin or the languages on my tongue. That’s because every person in the universe has a unique experience. Whether someone labels me Korean or Argentinian or American, that will never change my experiences as a Spanish-speaking, immigrant, child of divorced parents, Californian, college graduate (Go Bears!), omnivore, writer, or any other label myself.
(In the video, in front of a passing white Mexican man, the two men ridicule him and say he can’t possibly be a real Mexican. Men laugh at the duo. Hurt, one of them throws a racist remark at the Asian man who replies that he is also from Mexico. Like the last lord. Appearances are deceiving)
Discover my race
People who believe we live in a post-racial America don’t know what it’s like to discover race instead of being raised in its cage. I discovered that I was Asian when I arrived in this country, a country where I was constantly asked what kind of Asian I was or where I came from or where my parents are from. A country where someone drives down the street and yells racist remarks at me. A country where I have to find out if I’m “Spanish/Latina” enough to join the Latino clubs or not Asian enough to join the Asian clubs. A country where I am terrified of every Spanish word I forget because I don’t use it anymore. If I lose my language, with the looks I have, who will I be? I was already pushed to the fringes of Korean communities because I didn’t know Korean. Language is so essential to belonging. By entering new spaces, we learn the most about who we are. It is in struggle, through the walls that push against us, that we find our truth and identity.
(This is my dad’s boyfriend, my nanny’s daughter, my brother and I. We’d been playing outside all summer so we’d turned a nice shade of brown)
Racial experience + ethnic experience = ?
I have always believed that my upbringing made me a ‘person of color’. Someone who brought a unique perspective to workplaces dominated by people who had known privileges for most of their lives. Privileges that can be as simple as not migrating from countries, or coming from unbroken families, or even having parents who can provide financial advice. As I progressed and grew in the United States, I came to understand that I had my own set of privileges as a person of color that came from not being black or visibly Hispanic. There is a systemic drawback, one that: can be deadly in this country, if you look a certain way. Therefore it is of utmost importance to use that sense of belonging to an oppressed group along with my physical privilege to cheer up people who have bigger problems than mine.
(In this video, this woman talks about her experience with racial profiling and how her sister, who looked white, used her appearance to stand up to injustice)
We need to create a world where everyone has the same opportunity to belong. This is not an uncommon experience, globalization has brought it about. Just listen to my friend Alex, a man whose ethnicity clashed with his race:
Or to my friend Brian who had to guard the line between not being white enough and not being Mexican enough:
Happy Spanish Heritage Month!