Race in My Life
The Obamas recently had an interview where they talked about race. I thought it was good opportunity to talk about my experiences as a mixed race female. These stories could go forever but basically, race gets talked about everywhere. I am automatically less than because my skin is darker. It´s a subject that happens.
My father’s family is from Eastern Europe and is Jewish. My mother is from the Philippines with some Spanish roots.
Race is a regular conversation I have. It´s a reality and a lot of people don´t realize how much it can effect everyday life. People think asking about my skin is a great ice breaker. It´s not.
In Spain, I was told not to put a picture on my resume because I wouldn´t get hired. I was told I´m lucky my name is white. The fact my name, Thelma Rose Greenfield, sounds like a blonde southern belle has been to my advantage. My program wanted to prepare me emotionally for the fact that people may not hire me because of my skin color. They may overlook my skin color if I came off well in the interview. They were realistic and I appreciated their candor but it is disheartening feeling like my skin is what is between me and a job.
Spain is racist too. They are really open about it. My kids call me a Chino all the time and make the little eyes. They’re 5-years-old and I’m 24-years-old so I’m going to just let it slide. However, it is a reality that if you are mixed, in another country, it will be a conversation. It shouldn’t be but that is our world.
So I get it. I’m not white, I’ll never be white and I know you know I’m not white. People react so strangely to my skin color.
In general, colored people tend to try and figure out if I’m of their tribe. African Americans usually say, “Are you a sister?” When I say no, they laugh and say, “You look like you could be a sister.” So this approach is not super offensive. They are just asking and not being rude or condescending.
Hispanic people talk to me in Spanish automatically and if I respond in English or not at all they say, “Why don’t you speak Spanish? Did your mother not teach you your mother tongue?” My response is usually, “I’m half Filipino and half Jewish, why should I know Spanish?” Granted, I know Spanish but I just don’t think it’s polite to put someone down for being monolingual especially in America. Majority of Americans are monolingual so stop being rude. Assuming I’m Hispanic is also really rude because there are more types of brown. And finally why should it matter?
And finally, WHITE PEOPLE… you guys think you are being SOOOO progressive when you ask about my race. However, white people often are the rudest when asking. They pretty much ask, “What are you?!” Reading that on paper is abrasive let alone someone saying that to your face. Like, I’m human and you are an asshole.
If this sounds racist, it is. People respond differently to people that are different from them.
Especially in hostels, everyone naturally asks your nationality. That’s fine because generally, we are trying to figure out the best language to communicate in. This is more functional than anything.
Then we get to the UK and Americans who are kinds of dicks. I say, “I’m American.” And they think it’s appropriate to answer, “Where are you really from?”
What you think you are saying, ¨What is your race?¨
What you are actually saying, ¨You aren´t an American because of your skin color.”
And their tone is as if they think are being progressive but in actuality, you are questioning my patriotism and trying to figure out what stereotypes you can apply to me. Just because we are both “worldly” and in a hostel doesn’t mean you sound any less racist. My responses include, “What do you mean?” “I was born in America,” “I’m from New Mexico,” or simply glaring.
It’s just so rude to question me about race within the first 5 minutes of us meeting. There is a plethora of things you could ask me that isn’t so goddamn rude! People try to act like they are so not racist because they are having a conversation about race, when you should just shut up and ask me how my day was like you would ask to any other human.