Ethnicity is a state of belonging. But what about those who don’t “belong”? It wasn’t until four years ago I realized a new sense of ridicule, separating people of multiple ethnicities from the culture in which they were raised. By blood, we are not 100 percent any ethnicity; personally I am 50 percent European and 50 percent Mexican, and because we are not completely of one, we cannot say we are either. But accepting this idea forces us to believe that we don’t belong in any culture.
The first time I encountered someone with this belief was four years ago when they found out I was partially Hispanic and partially white. The individual said, “You can’t call yourself Mexican if you’re half white.” I asked why not and they said, “cause you aren’t 100 percent Mexican.” That I wasn’t a “real Mexican.” At the time, I thought it was an oddball encounter.
Over the next few years, however, I realized that there are more people with this belief than I thought. I had to have the same experience over and over again. My own cousins even began to tell me that the Mexican heritage I was raised in “doesn’t count,” that I’m not “actually Mexican.”
Despite knowing other “Mexicans” who don’t speak Spanish, I’m told, “If you don’t speak Spanish, you aren’t really Mexican;” Despite knowing “Mexicans” who have white skin, I’m told, “You look white, so you can’t be Mexican;” I didn’t struggle as much as they did with prejudice which was used as yet another reason, but let me say that there is no prerequisite requirement stating that to be a “real Mexican” or any other ethnicity, someone needs to be discriminated against. I am Mexican because I spent holidays eating tamales, playing la pirinola and going to fiestas for my familia twice a week. I was raised in this culture that all of sudden I’m no longer allowed to say I am.
I am not the only one who has had to struggle with this feeling that I’m not allowed to feel I belong in my own ethnicity. There are countless others who are multiracial, whether Chinese, European, German, Puerto Rican, African American, Filipino, Russian, or Mexican who are multiracial. To criticize someone for being proud to say they are a part of an ethnicity, is to take away their identity. People cannot simply strip one another from their own culture for miniscule reasons like the excuse that they are not a “real” member of that culture because they have multiple ethnicities.
We need to create a future where people like this are not scrutinized by people in their own culture or any other. Where they aren’t ridiculed, rejected, and denied from the culture they know. Even if they don’t go to every event or know every word of that language. It’s their culture just as much.