Nezua the Unapologetic Mexican (1969- ) grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and other places all across America, half Mexican and half white by blood. On his blog he writes beautifully about the not-so-beautiful experience. What follows is merely my overview. Links to his blog follow.
He looks white but not quite. Like in the summer he was afraid to go outside because he would turn dark in no time. But most times only other Mexicans could tell what he was – and try to speak to him in Spanish!
White people told him he could pass for white – as if he never tried that, as if it were that easy. He did try it, from age 8 to 19. His name was even changed to an Anglo one everyone could say when his white, Irish American stepfather signed all the papers to make him his son in the eyes of the law: he went from Joaquín to Jack. For a while he even lightened his skin, shaved off all his hair and changed his eye colour with contact lenses. His English was perfect, better than most. He tried to be “universal”.
… nobody has tried harder than I to be “white.” Nobody knows as well as I that despite how many moments you think you pull it off, unless it’s what you really are, then in the end, being WHITE means erasing yourself until there’s nothing there.
Trying to be white, “the Bestest thing ya could be”, led to anger, confusion and self-hatred. He was denying his true self. It took him years to undo the damage. Telling his story is part of the undoing.
No matter how you make yourself look on the outside there is still your heart on the inside. The heart that, for example, has to listen to the racist jokes white people will tell with you sitting right there – because, ha ha, it is just a joke, so lighten up already.
His mother was a good mother, but she was white. She could not undersand what being Mexican meant. His Mexican father was out of the picture by age five. So all he knew about Mexico came from white people – from their racist jokes, television shows, Hollywood films, books and, most of all, from their faces:
… what did “Mexican” mean to me? It meant weird pauses. Wrinkled brows. Forced smiles. Awkward transitions that even as a child I was very aware of.
In high school he looked more and more like his father. The mirror laughed at his attempts to become white.
His mother searched for his birth father and found him at long last in Iowa. He spent a summer there with his father’s family when he was 19. They regarded him as Mexican and it felt good – right there in Iowa City in the middle of America.
… the acceptance I get from the brown world is always nourishing, always empowering. And the acceptance from the white world, when it thinks I am not brown, is always degrading, debasing. If you can understand that, then you understand a lot.
- This post is based mainly on these two from the Unapologetic Mexican:
- Nezua’s Glosario
- Race and growing up in America:
- growing up Asian American – this comes closest of the ones I have done. I have not done growing up Latino (yet)
- growing up biracial (the black-and-white-kind)
- growing up black – for comparison.
- internalized racism
- the white club