I’m sitting around, stewing in the “melting pot” mockery that has a big, rusty patch on its underside and is ready to spew out all the mush held inside.
Yes, I know, as former language instructor and especially as a trained technical writer, I should know better than to mix metaphors as I’ve done in the opening sentence and stick to writing clearly, accurately, and to the point. Sometimes, though, one can flout convention to make that point.
OK, I’ll get to the point — plainly said, the recent hullabaloo about preferences for “light-skinned” Hispanics is downright ridiculous. Yes, I believe that the use of this term might have incited some suspicions of discrimination, but good golly, as an Hispanic of this dubious distinction, I just want to say, “Get real, folks!”
Born of a blue-eyed, fair-haired Hispanic mother, I carry some of her genes.
Seriously, I’ve been approached too many times with the ridiculous comment, “You don’t look Hispanic!” When I was old enough to absorb the fuzzy comment, I’d shoot back, “What does Hispanic look like, anyway?
Honestly, it had never occurred to me that I was much different from my peers; I had two eyes, one head, etc., and our family never harped on our skin tone or “odd looks.”
Later in life, having given birth to a blond, blue-eyed child, I began hearing a resurgence of the ugly or perhaps sometimes innocent comments. One former college classmate, meeting me at the grocery store, looked at my son and said to me, “I didn’t know you had married an Anglo!”
A 7-year-old in our hometown of Gallup came up to me and said, What’s wrong with your baby? He’s got white hair.” By then, I was somewhat inured to the likes of such statements and just laughed them off.
I still recall the day my son came home from second grade and asked me with great seriousness, “Mom, can you dye my hair brown so I can look like my friends? From the mouths of babes, indeed!
Yet, my heart ached for him. Later when my son was in college, he joined his friends at a Paul Rodriguez (the comedian) presentation at Highlands University. My boy came home afterward, with this anecdote: ”Mom, I was sitting close to the front, enjoying Rodriguez’s jokes when he stopped the show, pointed to me and asked, ‘What’re you laughing at, white boy?’ When I responded, giving my name, he shot back, ‘I now dub you Chicano Light.’”
Funny, yes. Nevertheless, the attitude still rankles.
I realize that in our lovely home state, as well as throughout the nation, there are still individuals and groups who stick to old, outworn notions about ethnic and racial groups, but one would think that the terms diversity and tolerance might have sunk in by now.
I guess not!
Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at email@example.com.