Stopped in my own tracks
Carlos De Loera | Thursday, September 27, 2018
A few weeks ago, I was at the Mount Baker Link Station stop in Seattle after spending some quality time with my brothers when, all of a sudden, it happened. A man who was on the same train as us made a lighthearted joke about me being white. I am no stranger to someone making a soft, harmless joke at the expense of my background, but the thing is, I’m not white. Like not even half or a quarter or some oddly specific small percentage. I am proudly 100 percent Mexican. So I took the joke how I imagine most others would have: I faked a smile over at this jokester and figured it’d be best for me not to try to explain to him that he was incorrect in his assumption. No need to waste my breath on him over this silly remark.
However, this incident has led me to reflect on a couple of things.
First is that people way too often make assumptions about others’ backgrounds based purely on looks. For starters, not all people of Hispanic descent look a certain way. Sure, some of us are short, brown and dark everything — and that’s OK! — and some of us have light skin, colored eyes and light-colored hair — also chill — and even more of us are some kind of beautiful mix of these traits. But I get where this train dude was coming from. Our society has placed an image out there of what a Mexican should look like and what a white person should look like, and I guess for this guy I fell into the latter category. So, yes, this guy was ignorant, but also society, especially through media, should do a better job of showing there is no one way that people of Hispanic or Latino descent should look. We come in all shapes, colors and sizes.
The other thing that I took from this encounter was that this guy hit a soft spot in how others have viewed me. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been called white. Sure, people have mistaken me for white, but I have also mockingly been accused of being “whitewashed.” This characterization unusually stems from the fact that since high school, I have attended schools that are predominantly white, and some perceive that I now even “talk white” and that I like things that are “culturally white.” But, hey, that’s super offensive! There’s no one way that I, or anyone else who has a background like mine, should be expected to talk, and there aren’t any things we’re supposed to like.
But yeah, I, like, never let what people say affect me.