∞ Brittany Schwanke
Being a Light-Skinned Mexican American.
I am a Mexican American. Growing up I was raised around two different worlds. My mom, who is fully Mexican, was born in Culiacan Sinaloa, and my dad who is fully white, was born and raised in Texas. I remember how different the two sides of my families were, how different tradition and culture was. I remember going to Thanksgiving and spending it with my dad’s family and then going to spend Christmas with my mom’s family in Mexico. The two cultures were insanely different. I have dark brown thick hair, brown eyes and am very light skinned. When it comes to people asking what race I am, I always say I’m half Mexican, and half white. But when it comes to people’s reactions, it was always a shock to them when I tell them I’m half Mexican. It became something I started getting used to.
The struggle of not even knowing what to identify myself as has always been an issue. Im not comfortable with just saying I’m white, or saying I’m just Mexican because I’m not just one, I’m both. In America the people who reside here might see me as a white girl— a mixed baby or something along those lines. When I go to Mexico they consider me as “la gringa”. Being a part of two cultures has always been confusing and dragging. I remember asking my teacher, a white male, which race I should fill out on my school applications, explaining to him that I was half white and half Mexican. His response was “Well, what do you think?”
I answered, “Well everyone says I look white.”
He responded, “If everyone thinks you look white, you should go with checking the ‘white’ box if you don’t know what else to do.”
I wonder what the response would have been if I had asked a Mexican teacher at the time. Marking just one box was wrong. It meant that I had to deny one part of my ancestry. I grew up thinking that if everyone sees me as a white girl I might as well be a white girl, but as I grew older I realized how uninformed I was about everything, especially about the person I was.
When I spoke Spanish, it had to be perfect. I remember my cousins asking me how I slept, and I responded “comfortable” in Spanish, and they all started laughing because little did I know the correct term was “cómoda.” I was probably 7 when I said this, and to this day I still remember, and it still sometimes embarrasses me to speak Spanish. I remember asking my friend “Donde esta la carro?” And again laughter burst out for I incorrectly said “la carro” instead of “el carro.” I know that laughter is a given when someone makes a mistake but I am half Mexican and regardless of my race I should be able to learn a language without feeling ashamed of my color. Because of this I refused to speak Spanish around others, never cared about learning more, or even thought it mattered because at the end of the day I will always look “white.” It has only been after 19 years that I have made an effort to learn more Spanish and embrace the beautiful language. I hope that as generations go by, the language carries strongly and I will be able to pass it on to my children and have them speak it proudly, while never having to feel ashamed.
In all honestly I can’t relate to those who are judged by their skin color because white privilege is unforntuanly real. Although I am half Mexican, my skin color is white, which has impacted my life since the day I was born. My skin is there for everyone to judge me. I have always been accustomed to negative remarks of being bi-racial. White girl. Guerra. Gringa. I’ve been called all those names. The first thing that people ask me when I tell them I’m half Mexican is “NO WAY” ” NO YOU’RE NOT” “SAY SOMETHING IN SPANISH.” Why is this even such a shock? How can questions like these not irritate someone? Not make someone feel hurt? I feel the need to prove my identity all the time to others.
My journey being bi-racial has always been kind of annoying, feeling like I wasn’t Mexican enough in my skin color was a constant struggle. Where do you stand being in between? To some, they don’t accept the half of me that comes from the roots of Mexico, and that I am very much proud of it. To others, they see the color of my skin in disgust, that my white ancestors took their land and have caused major damage to people’s lives. My pride and interest in my Mexican side is important to me because that is apart of who I am. No, I do not speak fluent Spanish, and when I do speak Spanish I have an English accent. I don’t like all Mexican food dishes but I can eat frijoles for the rest of my life. I do not fit the many stereotypes that exist for people of darker skin tones but I am a proud chicana. At the end of the day I don’t need to prove to anyone that I am Mexican or white. I am who I am.