How many of you interracial beauties have been mistaken for the wrong ethnicity? How many of you have experienced this at least three hundred and sixty five times a year? If you have said “yes” – especially aloud to yourself – then we’ve got something in common.
When humanoids first began to notice differences in each other, they naturally began to splinter off. If you ever studied psychology, you would understand the actual cognitive development that must take place for an infant to began distinguishing the difference between one object and another. In our ever-increasing interconnected earth – and yes it is ours along with all its other inhabitants, so we better take care of it – diversity and acceptance is celebrated.
Actually I retract that statement as it beckons the question: does the world belong to us or do we belong to the world? Perhaps this may be a “chicken and the egg” type question, but honestly – if the mother nature reigns supreme does that mean we are just subject to her winds? Does she moderate our populations and the actions we take to counter her storms? For example, if she did not send hurricanes to our country, would we not have the infrastructures in place to defend us against the peril? If so, would thousands of construction jobs generating well-being for certain individuals not exist? Or…is it our very actions and sometime disregard for the environment that leads to storms to brew and then hit us? We certainly did not understand the weather in the epochs past and thus negligence can be attributed to ignorance. What if echoed negligence from the past has led to the booms of natural wrath in the present? In that case, we truly are the makers of our own destruction, and the keepers of our own environments.
Wow, okay major tangent. Back to topic – mixed babies! So you are a baby (and according to Marshall on How I Met Your Mother, babies can “smell money” so go find me a twenty) and you’re picking up on the fact that the yellow circle doesn’t fit in your square wooden inlet on whatever Toys R’ Us novelty your mother figure got you. Congratulations baby! You’ve got the makings of a healthy deciphering system. But wait, there’s more. Now, your mother unit hails from the Southern region of our great continent yet your patriarchal gene contributor is of the Caucasian descent. This would make you half-Latin and half-white, and yet all your life you will be deemed as Asian.
I know, #firstworldproblems right? Insert princess emoji here. And while you constantly correct the new, inquisitive faces when they are attempting to guess what diverse gene potpourri your phenotypes are expressing, you can’t help but wonder…how many other people out there in the world are constantly mistaken for the nationalities they are woven with? How many mixed individuals ever experience and “identity” crossroads because of their culturally dissimilar parents? I know I have. In a case such as mine, growing up to the irresistible salsa beat of Celia Cruz and the gunshots of a John Wayne movie, I feel as if both of my cultures could be shared with everyone I come in contact with (for the better, hopefully!).
We are all a mixture of cultures – it does not always have to contain an international connotation but a domestic and even neighborhood one. Perhaps someone who is completely native to the United States since the 1800s can empathize with both the Depression era background as well as the Carnegie one, if their ancestors’ branches intertwined at some point in the growth of that generational tree. Culture is a combination of common practices, values, and ideals held dear to a specific group. Often that group created its practices and formed its value set in response to its environment, and that environment also played a subtle role in their outward phenotypes. This is one way culture can be associated with how someone looks, and sometimes the judgment call can be pretty spot on…or a super fail. Nevertheless, nations take pride in the cultures their peoples have created and once the rituals are institutionalized in the form of holidays, aggressive marketing of decorations for these celebrations, reported major religions and political parties in the region, and school curricula with a mandate to teach on these practices. In this way, culture becomes entrenched in nationality as well.
Two hundred years ago, Louisianans were occupied in the Battle of New Orleans led by Andrew Jackson against British forces. In this chapter of America’s rich history, people were assigned to certain groups of “creoles” or “mestizos” or “mulattos” – they would create terms for individuals based on if they were mixed black and Spanish or mixed Native American and Spanish and their branding would dictate how they fit into society.
While it is comforting to have a place in society, it is not so fortuitous if that is last place, and if that place takes away one’s rights and suitable treatment. Today, these terms have become relics of the past. As we have made progress in granting equal rights to all under the law in our country, we now can all share in the American culture and proudly break out our red, white, and blue bandana only worn on the Fourth of July or the occasional themed barbeque. Still, there is always more to be done.
We are able to champion our heritages and participate in this nation’s opportunities but still have a while to go to balance the scale when it comes to employment, loans, education, and housing. Like the child in my special education classroom that receives sustainably more attention and scaffolding to succeed than her understanding classmates, I do believe historically neglected sects in society should be empathized with in the same way. As an American, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of winning a race based on merit, but only if we all begin at the same starting line. As a young optimist, I believe that day can come granted that we all work towards it, together.