The first example of white privilege I learned about was watching my mom serve my dad. Yes, Goldilocks was a story I heard. Go ahead and bear arms, or arm bears, or whatever!
But before I could read about Goldilocks or even talk, I watched what happened in my family.
Mixedness is special–I love being mixed. The things I’ve learned are valuable beyond anything. I can see whiteness and Mexican-Americanness, both up close and personal. Yes, a front seat. First hand experience, both of my hands.
There are traditions of food and culture I’ve learned in ways that feel special. Special gifts and dysfunctions. Trying to understand the emotions and how affection is expressed, power used, how differently, in both sides of my family. The drug and alcohol use, and how that factored in. Place, what home is, and how we were treated by the outside world.
I’ve had countless conversations with people who’ve commented on my choices of how to identify. I’ve endured eternal confusion about how to fill out forms that ask for ethnicity and race.
What is pride, who am I for real, and can I be Chicana? Questions of language and the pain of colonialism. Spanish is a language I love, but is also the language of the invader. But who is the invader? Am I? When I looked at the family tree, I learned so much, but I’m still not sure how much it matters.
Just Saturday on a zoom meeting, I was supposed to say where I’m living. I though of saying Aztlan, but I never heard anyone else say that, in a land acknowledgment. Maybe it’s not done. So I said what I always say–the Paiute land of Las Vegas, Nevada. But Aztlan seems as valid a conceptualization as any.
Mostly I’ve learned about categorizing, and how almost everyone wants to be able to put others into a box. The either-or-ness of boxes. If it’s on paper, I can draw my own box on the form and check that one, but it’s going to mess up the underpaid person who’s doing data entry.
She’s not the one who specifically needs to think about mixedness as she cleans up the lil mess I left on her form. The whole society should, but the whole society is busy right now.
Late stage capitalism is like abuse–it takes a lot of time, to receive harm, recover, and convince yourself that it’s ok what’s being done to you. Being abused is a full-time job.
Yeah, I can complain that I feel like I’m lying, whatever I say. It can hurt, saying I’m white or a POC. Letting people make assumptions, feeling the wave of confusion that passes over someone, when they learn the backgrounds of my family, or that my dad was born in England. Yes, my parents met as teenagers working in the fields. Yes, this might be confusing for you.
I wish to go to Mixed Island sometimes, and relax with a bunch of mixed people and not have to explain Anything.
Ah, luxurious. Not to have to explain. I love to communicate, but people demanding shit of me is so tiring. Or criticizing why I choose to say what.
A kind, new friend was talking to me about ethnicity the other day. I told her I’m more willing to identify as Mexican-American now that I learned how my family was bombed in the Trinity Test. She didn’t know about the Trinity Test, so I explained it.
She commented that feeling free to identify with a culture because of harm is sad, that identifying based on more joyful reasons might be better. It felt like hippie positivity–keep it posi.
I felt a smart of ouch. Yes, I can be criticized for saying I’m white, for saying I’m not white, for not knowing how to identify, for abstaining from saying, and even for the reason I identify how I do. Should I have glommed onto the positive, not the pain?
I said how anyone can eat tamales at Christmas and enjoy some delicious enchiladas, or particular kinds of music or dancing, but not anyone can be harmed by a Trinity Test and its racism. Every day, I live with the results of that violence, which caused others to violence others, to violence me.
It’s been years of identifying different ways, as my understandings change. What a journey. Nothing I say feels right, but comfort with discomfort is my life, for a lot of reasons.
Goldilocks had blond hair, and I never did and never aspired to. Those stories I did think about a lot, as a kid. Goldilocks, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk would have been enough, but Sleeping Beauty and many others are vivid inside me.
I’m still thinking about them. They tell tales of the values I was imprinted with, for better or worse. Mine to accept or reject.
Ursula K Le Guin said, “Story is our only boat for sailing on the river of time.” Cool image–still trying to think if I agree.
When I looked up the quote, I saw more of it. “Story is our only boat for sailing on the river of time, but in the great rapids and the winding shallows no boat is safe.” Hmm, brilliant.
This song feels right to me. I think so much about the soul and the body. The white and of color–the colonizer and the colonized. The violence and the recovery. The trauma and the crazy. Love to all without exception.