Brown & Proud

I take pride in being Latinx and in being a person of color, but I’d be lying if I said I’d always been a proud Latina.

Growing up, it was easy to feel like I wasn’t a ‘real Mexican.’ I grew up speaking English at home because even though my parents were both born in Mexico, they moved to the States as young children, and so English became their primary language. I went to schools that were predominantly white, and didn’t see a lot of diversity among my classmates until I was in college. From my friends, I’d hear things like, “You’re the whitest Mexican I know!” and, “Sometimes, I forget that you’re Mexican.” At the time, I felt that these were compliments, because it meant that I was accepted. I was like them. I’d often have folks try to guess my ethnicity like a game.

“What are you?”
“Well, what do you think I am?”
“Italian? No? Greek? Lebanese?”

I played this game with them like it gave me some power, but always wondered why folks could never see who I was. Even from folks who were like me, my own cousins, I felt disconnected. They spoke Spanish, and I didn’t. They grew up in more traditional Mexican households than I did. I felt like I didn’t belong in their circle. I felt like I wasn’t enough like them.

I didn’t begin to take stock of my experiences as a Latinx person going through the world until more recently. I now understand how these accumulated experiences still make me feel like I’m not Latinx enough. My skin is fairly light and I don’t have an accent. I still don’t speak Spanish fluently. (I’m working on it, although I still carry shame and embarrassment that’s difficult to shake.) I understand now that these characteristics do not make me less Mexican, even if for so long I thought they did. I’ve learned that my fairer skin comes from the Europeans who invaded our land, but understand and know that my heritage and history and life have been passed down from the people, my ancestors, my family, in Mexico.

Today, I feel thankful and damn proud to be Latinx. We are an incredibly beautiful, strong, bright and colorful people. I am learning more every day to embrace and celebrate the entirety of who I am, where I’m from, and where it’ll lead me.

I also understand that while I may not necessarily pass as white, my overall experience as a person of color is a very different one from people of color who have darker skin, who may not speak English as a first language, and who do have accents that reveal their heritage for them. I understand the privilege that this has afforded me through my life and do my best not to take that for granted, through my voice and my actions. There is always more learning to do and more work to do be done to stand for one another, and for all people of color who face discrimination in this country.

For the folks who “aren’t brown enough,” for the folks who are “too brown” or “too black,” for the folks who are passed over for opportunities, for the people who are unjustly targeted and killed in the streets because of the color of their skin… for all of us who experience life differently because we are brown. We know we are so much more. People of color are worthy of the love, respect, and basic human rights we may not always be granted. And so I say this with all the self-love and love for my fellow poc that is in me:

“I am brown and proud.”