[an addendum]

I think I should have included a little something more in yesterday’s post, therefore I am adding this little addendum…

A few personal experiences that have my opened my eyes to my otherness according to our society… i.e. not Hispanic, not white, not normal, not fitting into any neat little category, but rather a mysterious, ‘exotic’ other…

1) I was once told by a boy at school that I was “not Hispanic enough” to understand something

2) I was once told quite specifically just what was wrong with my face according to a boy in high school

3) At my last job a male customer asked me if I was Italian, or Greek, or [insert other European background here], and after my answering in the negative a few times he finally asked, “I’m sorry, but what ethnicity are you?? I just have to know…”—and this happens to me a lot, FYI—I finally said, “El Salvadorean,” and he said, “oh, wow, that’s surprising… I mean, you’re pretty, you look European…”

*The lesson here, in case you didn’t get it, is that people from 3rd world countries, e.g. Central America, are not attractive.

4) When I started dating my current boyfriend [years ago] I told a few people, including him, that he was the first white boyfriend I’d ever had. A few friends kind of laughed, like, “ok….haha…you’re being silly…who cares, etc.” and the thing is, I realized- they didn’t get it, they didn’t see it like me (and after all, how could they). That ‘thing’ is: I learned early on that I was not attractive to white boys, white boys would not and could not be attracted to me – I’m “weird” looking after all. (Hence, the constantly being asked by random strangers what ethnicity I am) How do I know this? I was told so through various insults as a teenager girl. I grew up in Venice, CA, but got bussed up to a high school in Malibu from 7th grade on. And that was it- that’s how I learned my place. I went from being “normal,” maybe even pretty according to some, among my racially diverse elementary school peers (*think black, white, Mexican, Korean, Costa Rican, Ethiopian, etc.*) to being an instantly unattractive freak among the sea of blonde-haired and blue-eyed girls in Malibu.

And that’s my story. I heard and underwent a lot of harmful treatment there. That’s where I learned what the standard is. That’s where I first learned about white aesthetics. That’s where I first learned about my otherness. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. *And* I know white girls and women undergo similar pressures to conform to arbitrary standards of beauty as well. My sister and I have both been through the ringer when it comes to social pressures, standards, criticisms, and sexism impacting us in severe and traumatic ways- and she’s white. (I’m adopted)

I’m just giving you a view into one girl’s experiences. And that’s not to say that my journey or experiences have been rougher than anybody else’s. Mine are my own- they are unique to me, my gender, my ethnicity, my sexual orientation, etc., just as my sister’s or any other woman’s experiences will be unique to her and no one else could ever truly understand them. We all experience things differently. It’s not about ranking types and levels of oppression, but rather understanding that we are all subject to this system, these inequalities, and how we experience these things will inevitably vary.

In the words of Cherrie Moraga, “The danger lies in ranking the oppressions. The danger lies in failing to acknowledge the specificity of the oppression. The danger lies in attempting to deal with oppression purely from a theoretical base. Without an emotional, heartfelt grappling with the source of our own oppression, without naming the enemy within ourselves and outside of us, no authentic, nonhierarchical connection among oppressed groups can take place.”

 

 

 

 

 

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5 comments

  1. I understand where you are coming from , my Asian friends often say “you won’t understand” I don’t speak an Asian language although I have brown skin, my culture of upbringing has much more in common with culturally “British” norms. However a lot of British people think I am not British enough because I wear abayah and hijab, and I am brown skinned.

  2. When you go against the norm you are always seen as different and sometimes invalid. Growing up I loved the people who were different, I still do. I will never understand why do people judge others for being different. Kids are cruel and they speak their mind but my mom taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

  3. But still in our society we are reminded of our differences. Check this box (ethnicity) for a job application, check this box to apply college, check this box at any given place. We are always divided and unequal. As a black woman in America, I understand where you are coming from. I was teased because of my hair, my nose and my teeth when growing up. White students thought I was half white because I’m light-skinned and spoke clear English. All this didn’t get my attention until I graduated from high school, taking an African-American history class. First I enrolled in a Western Civ class and while sitting there the first day. I remember thinking , “Drop this class, why are you learning about White people? You could be taking a class about Black people” I never went to that class again!

  4. Isn’t education amazing in that way? Having my eyes opened to the fact that all of history, law, science, “classic” literature, etc.- basically the foundation to everything we call knowledge- was predominantly written by white men, really had a profound impact on me & my outlook on the world. Education sure can be amazing in that way….

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