Identity

This morning my three year old told her Papi that he is different than Mommy and herself. She told him he is White and and she is Mexican-American like her Mommy. This follows an incident a few months ago where August saw a photo of herself at 10 months old or so and asked,"Is that me?" I told her it was and then she surprised me by suddenly exclaiming, "I"m White?!" I was shocked because I didn't expect that response. I thought it was adorable but it was clearly a sign that identity was going to be something we would be talking about sooner than later.

I told her she was half White because Papi was White and she was half Mexican-American because I was. After texting close friends and family about what had just happened, I continued, and told her half her family is White and half her family is Mexican-American and she is a combination of both and it's exciting because up until she came along there had been no one like her on either side of the family. I mentioned her younger cousin, is also half White and half Mexican-American and she has friends that are also bi-racial so she's not the only one.

Now, to begin the process of raising a bi-racial child. She has been pointing out things, asking me how to say them in Spanish Then repeats the word. The other day we watched a show and she heard Spanish then asked me to start speaking Spanish to her. For now she is identifying as Mexican-American. I expect it could probably change as she gets older. I only hope she doesn't come to reject my side of her complex heritage that includes Mexican, Mestizo and Native American.

It was difficult for me growing up a Mexican-American, with a mother from Mexico, in a border town. My mother considers herself an American of Mexican decent. I can remember it being daunting and sometimes heartbreaking having a mother from Sinaloa, Mexico, and a father who who was proud of his family's deep roots in America and in Texas. My parents were raised in two different countries. My childhood was split between Mexico and the US, as was my heart and identity. My daughter has two cultures from which to craft her identity. I want her to be welcomed by both. I don't want for her to struggle for acceptance with either one. Will she notice that I am still struggling?

Having been there when she has had these moments of discovery have been met with mixed emotions. I'm proud of her awareness, but I don't want to invade her childhood with any issues like the ones I was introduced to in early childhood. The issue of dark colored skin and hair color versus light colored skin and hair and beauty. One day I will tell her the injustices my grandparents faced with "Juan Crow" Laws that were in Texas well into the mid-seventies. There are Mexican-American families in Texas with three generations of non-Spanish speakers because speaking Spanish was not allowed out of the home. It was highly discouraged in schools and children could be severely punished for not speaking English. In places like Marfa, TX, children literally buried the Spanish language by putting Spanish words in a box and putting it in the ground. My own grandmother was the only child of color in her class and when the class went to the movies to watch a historical film, she was only allowed to sit in the theater if she sat next to her teacher. She said it was up front and she didn't mind.

The icy stares we'd sometimes get at certain diners along Highway 90 in the early '70s were explained to me. Children are very sensitive to behavior like this. They can feel it. I remember those feelings. I was told it was so important to behave better than other children, be an example, don't give anyone a reason to complain. We were being taught that we represented an entire group of people and that we were being judged. Being a child I made it a game, to be the most perfect person in the room. As a result, I failed to attempt anything I thought I could not be perfect in. It took decades to undo that mindset.

August just visited my family and tickled them to death when she said proudly,"I'm Mexican-American, guys!" She is recognized as being bi-racial by my family. My grandmother will say sometimes, "Eres mi gringita, mamita?" To ignore color, culture, identity, race and to just try to "see the person" is something I have heard growing up. "I just see Tera", I have heard this so many times. And I ask them to explain what that means and it was always,"I don't see you as Hispanic." How disappointing, its a huge part of who I am. I just hope that when August is out in the world that they see all of who she is and not what makes them feel safer.


2 Comments:

Blogger Holly said...

This post is very powerful and deeply heartfelt. I'm Mexican and Italian. All my life I have heard "look at this white girl trying to be Mexican", that has hardened me and I still have to defend myself to this day. Why in this day and age people are not accepted for who they are inside as humans is sad. Culture is important lineage of who we are and links us to our ancestors and our families past, the mix of all that we may be comprised of is essential for our souls. Oh Tera it sure is hard raising kids in this crazy world we have to navigate, but when we come from a place of truth and love with our children in our own homes they know to trust their hearts and minds.

Thursday, February 18, 2016  
Blogger ♥ tinyWOOLF ♥ said...

clever girl, your little one. growing up the way you did is very era-related, naturally, and we can only hope august will not face the same hardship. because identity is always so confronting, i mean, childhood and "teenage-hood" is, so all the more all that adds to it... and people will be people, especially in texas, right?
one thing's for sure: you guys will always guide her. fieeeuuwwww! X n♥

Sunday, March 06, 2016  

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