As a child growing up in the Texas Hill Country I was often told to go back to Mexico. I didn’t speak Spanish, and I’m half white. German, Irish, and Finnish to be exact. My dark, curly, frizzy hair and olive skin won me no favors.
Years later I live in DC. I am educated, but not rich. I work as a contractor, but I’ve ironed my hair straight and speak with no accent. Often, when I deal with services industries such as police and bank tellers, I receive very poor treatment from mostly local African Americans. Every time I see a new doctor they ask me to fill out a form that asks my race and ethnicity. They almost never have my combination so I refuse to fill out that section.
Sometimes, basic services become a hassle due to assumptions about my race. One time I was opening a checking account and the lady looked at my driver’s license and said, “I did not expect you to be so old. I thought you were a twenty-something GW student.” Later I learned she mailed my debit card to the wrong address and entered a false phone number for my account. That’s just one example.
One of the oddest race incidents came from my own family. My mother is first generation Mexican American. Spanish is her first language. She wouldn’t teach me Spanish because she thought it would hold me back. At family events, I’ve heard my Mexican American relatives gossiping about me in Spanish! Other times they would make jokes about white people and shush each other if I was nearby. They always considered me white, and because of that, separate from them.
I’ve found being of mixed race is still a confusing matter for most Americans – and families.