As a woman with a Mexican mother (“Mexican” to signify “mixed race,” although my mother has been identified by some as being Native American or Filipino or ‘Asian’) and a Jamaican father (his ethnicity is never questioned, though his nationality is reduced to ‘African American’), I grew up in a strange position. My parents’ families immigrated to the U.S. when they were young and they were taught to assimilate or else. Later this would culminate in my lack of knowledge about my heritage, both Mexican and Jamaican, and my inability to speak Spanish.
Some people think I speak Spanish based on my appearance. Yet some people think I am Indian or half-Asian, or half-white, or Hawaiian, or Egyptian. I have been identified as being various ethnicities simulatenously, while people tell me my brother looks “Arabic.” These identities that are imposed on myself and my brother come from stereotypes and maybe from some people’s knowledge of what particular ethnicites look like. No one ever asked me what I identified as until I got into college and that is when I realized that I did not identify with my Mexican and Jamaican heritages because I knew so little about either.
People may try to identify you or tell you how you should assimilate into a greater “American” culture. I think it’s best to identify with your ethnicity, whether mixed or not, by educating yourself. Every day I try to teach myself about Mexican and Jamaican cultures. Even though people question my ethnicity with an alarming frequency, at least I know now that I can honestly say I identify with my two mixed ethnicities.