Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Confused Ethnic Identity

On applications, I’ve always felt uncomfortable answering whether I am White, Hispanic, Asian, Black, or Other. And now I know why: I am too complex to be neatly defined or grouped by these terms.

Yes, I speak Spanish, but does that by itself make me Hispanic? Yes, I have pale skin, but does that by itself make me White?

So it’s not me who is flawed in this case, it’s these categories.

Groups from South America and Central America, for example, share little in common with each other. So although colonization caused these areas to adopt the Spanish language, “Latinos” differ significantly in culture.

And the same goes for Blacks. Not all Blacks have the same experiences, same histories, and same worldviews.

Indeed, these categories are profoundly vague and general, a clear indication that they are socially constructed.

But even if I faced three specific choices, like Dominican, American, or Other, I would hesitate.

I enjoy the rice and beans of El Plato Dominicano with broccoli or salad, not with bistec or pollo. Does that not make me Dominican?

I like philosophy for its questioning and skepticism, but I reject Catholicism for its hypocrisy and dogmatism. Does that not make me Dominican?

I judge women by their character and their strength, not by the size of their breasts and their butts. Does that not make me Dominican?

I love politics, but I oppose the hyperpatriotism that encourages discrimination against Muslims. Does that not make me American?

I listen to Bachata loudly, not caring if my neighbors understand the lyrics. Does that not make me American?

I criticize America because I think it still has plenty of flaws it needs to fix. Does that not make me American?


Maybe I’m neither Hispanic nor White, neither Dominican nor American. Maybe I’m Other.

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