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wednesday, january 31, 2001

i am brown. it's not may favorite color, brown, but i am very brown. i have dark brown (brunette) hair, long, sometimes curly. i have dark brown eyes, large, hidden behind "coke bottle" glasses. my skin is a dark tannish that gets darker in the summer and lighter in the winter (i call it my perma-tan). i generally avoid wearing brown because the last thing i wish to do is blend into my clothing. apparently being all brown is stereotyped with being hispanic. being hispanic is stereotyped with knowing spanish. when i ride on the bus to or from school and a spanish speaker comes on the bus, who do they turn to if they don't know spanish? me. almost without fail.

let me make this perfectly clear. no hablo espanol.

this is just about the limits of my spanish. took three years of it and don't remember more than that. and i certainly never could speak or understand it at the speed of lightening, which is the speed many spanish speakers seem to be going when i listen to them. at best i speak slowly the few sentences i know and can translate only if its written and i have a spanish-english dictionary at hand.

according to a few that i meet in our large spanish speaking community, i should speak spanish. i have been chewed out (on the bus, by a stranger) for letting go of my cultural heritage by not knowing my cultural language. it is pretty clear, as people turn to me to translate, that i should know spanish, even if i studied french in school.

another stereotype.

my father was puerto rican, but i never knew him. my white mother left puerto rico and divorced him when i was only a few months old. when i was 3 or 4, she married a white man. i may have puerto rican blood in my veins, but the hispanic culture has never been my culture. it is not how i was raised. i was raised in primarily white neighborhoods. not that i didn't meet others of other colors, just that was where i was raised. my schools were multiethnic, but no school that i know of in our public education system focuses on any culture other than white.

being brown and looking hispanic does not equal able to speak spanish. being brown and looking hispanic does not mean i have lost my culture.

it just means i am brown and look hispanic. and that it is probably a good idea not to wear brown clothes.

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