I want to be like Mom

Susan,
Boulder, CO.

I’ve been going through something of an identity crisis recently.

I’m 31, of mixed race (1/2 Mexican and 1/2 a mix of European). Although my mom was born in Mexico and is fluent in Spanish, I wasn’t raised much in the culture because I grew up on an Air Force Base in Germany.

My parents have recently gone through a divorce. I’m estranged from my dad (he walked out on my mom in 2011, and hasn’t talked to me since). Mix that with the fact, that he used to be physically and verbally abusive toward my mom, I just don’t feel that close to him. I feel so close to my mom, and so proud of her and my grandma.

My grandma was also born in Mexico, and became a maid at age 8 in 1932 when her uncle lost his farm. She eventually moved to the U.S. when she became a maid for a white woman. And to think, just two generations later, I’m a college graduate who had so many opportunities. My mom has worked for the last 20 years at the post office as a manual laborer. She worked overtime ALL the time, 6-7 days a week for YEARS to help me live (i.e. eat) while I went to college. She has sacrificed so much for me.

I’m just so proud to be part of a line of women with such strong work ethic and such big hearts. I don’t know why, but it hurts me so much when people dismiss me as white or make fun of my Spanish. I want to identify more with my mom because I respect her so much. It’s so weird to be seen as one race when your entire family that you’re actually in contact with is seen as another race.

I feel like race is determined by how strangers perceive you. For instance, President Obama was raised by a white mom but people treat him like a black man because he looks black. These strangers don’t know the culture you were raised in or the people who are dearest to you when they judge you by the color of your skin.

My mom always says that Hispanics are every color … white, brown, and black … but I don’t fully feel Hispanic because people treat me as white. When I moved to California for college in 2003, some people actually made jokes about Mexicans to me because they didn’t know I was Mexican.

I think the reason I’m also thinking about this a lot is because of the election. The day after the election, even though I am 31, I uttered like a child to my mom, “I feel like half the country hates half of me.”

She said, “It sure feels that way, doesn’t it?”

But I feel like an imposter or something. I’m “passing” as white and so people don’t treat me with hate. (And, oh please god, don’t think I WANT to be treated with hate.) I spoke to a friend whose girlfriend is Mexican and someone after the election yelled from his car that she should go back to Mexico. This was in Denver! I didn’t know we were so racist.

I think what I’m trying to say is that people of my heritage are going through a lot of hurt right now. I am too. But I somehow don’t fully feel like I’m allowed to feel hurt, because I’m not seen as Mexican. The Mexican women in my life are amazingly strong and selfless, so I hurt for them. They gave everything for their families. Why build walls? We should all wish we could be more like them. I know I certainly do.

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