What Are You? (Radio Edit)

“I would have been so normal if I grew up anywhere else.”

Transcript for What Are You?

In my high school, we had maybe three African American kids in our classes. And then coming here you have everything; you have international students and just everybody. And then you hear all these stories about how people view things differently than you and how they believe and it is just such an eye opening experience of like, thinking like…we knew in elementary school we had holiday parties and not Christmas parties, but we never knew anybody that celebrated anything but Christmas. So here it’s a lot different than what I experienced growing up.

I am a quarter Hispanic, and when I was in high school that was a big thing—like “you’re Mexican.” And I was like “I’m a quarter like Mexican,” that’s it. I look exactly like my mom and she’s half Mexican, so we both have our darker skin tone. Growing up, my friends and all my classmates would see, “Oh that’s your mom? You guys are so much tanner.” And at first they’d be like, “Are you Italian?” or “Are you this?” Finally I was like, “You know what? My dad is a hundred different things.” My dad has really no idea what he is…we kind of guesstimated, and my mom only knows the part that’s Mexican, so that’s my majority. And so eventually they’re like, “Well, what are you?” and I’m like, “Well, I’m Hispanic, well Mexican, and I don’t really know what else – and Dutch, German, Irish, whatever.” And that just kind of stuck.

My Grandpa lived, I think, until he was like twelve in Mexico and then moved to Chicago. So I mean he was very young for what he can remember in Mexico. I mean my mom grew up in the seventies where you weren’t proud to be Mexican. And she failed Spanish in high school. I mean she knows words that he would speak around the house, or when she went on family trips (she went down to Mexico to visit her grandma). She can listen and understand it but she cannot speak it at all.

I have some culture parts I identify with that are Mexican, just basically food and stuff. But then there’s also parts that I identify with my grandpa’s German side, even though he’s not even fully German. So I think my mom calls me a mutt, and I think there’s a ton of people that just don’t know what they really are. They don’t know what – if they’re Polish or German or Irish, so I don’t think there’s a strictly white category. I think that’s just the default.

But I definitely stood out being like a heavy, tan kid in elementary school when I had these skinny white girls all around that were just pale and straight hair and just – I stood out, so I guess they noticed. So everyone looked at me like that in high school but coming here I’m like, “I’m white.” And I knew that in high school I’m just white but everyone would always just place me under Hispanic. Yeah, it was kind of odd and I know that if I went to Merrillville people would be like, “You’re white.” So I mean, growing up it wouldn’t have been an issue of “what are you?” I would have been so normal if I grew up anywhere else. It’s weird to think how different my life would have been if I grew up in a different town or city or school system than I did.

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