Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stupid Little White Girl

I was five.  I was swinging at my Abuelita's house underneath a lush lemon tree.  I was chattering to my cousin (we'll call her Maria) in Spanish.  Maria was six.  I was happy.  Birds were chirping.

Maria said, "Why don't you just shut up!"

"Shut up? Why?"

"Because you shouldn't be speaking Spanish.  Your dad is WHITE!  You're not even Mexican!"

My dad was WHITE?!  OH NO!  I had no idea!  I was contemplating how best to process this new information when BLAM!  I TOOK A BASEBALL BAT TO THE HEAD!

Yeah.  Little 100% Mexican Maria was so disgusted that I was white and speaking Spanish and swinging happily under a lemon tree that she cracked me in the skull with a bat.  I saw stars.  I don't remember crying but I'm sure I did.

I don't think I cried because of the physical assult though.  I cried because suddenly I realized I was different.  I was deficient in some way.  I didn't want to be white!  I was MEXICAN!  But the more I thought about my daddy and his thick southern accent and green eyes the more I realized Maria had spoken the truth.  I was white.  I was broken hearted.

That was my first experience with racism.  I'll tell ya a few more.

I was 15.  I had a boyfriend named Alejandro.  His sisters hated me.  Guess why?  I. WAS. WHITE. 

I walked down the hall at church.  Alejandro's sister, Claudia, leaned against a wall with 6 of her cousins and said (in Spanish, of course),  "Look at her!  She thinks she's so great because she's a gringa.  She's just playing with my brother.  She doesn't want him!  She wants a rich white boy.  She looks so stupid with those long giraffe legs."

Then she looked at me with her good eye (she had lost an eye as a child which made her even scarier), "Just because you dance like a Mexican does not make you Mexican!  You're just a stupid little white girl!"

Ouch!  I heard that insult a lot.  Stupid little white girl.  When I was a teenager and out partying with my Mexican cousins I actually found myself using that phrase.

If a small blonde girl was dating a hot brown boy I would say, "She's just a stupid little white girl!  She's got water running through her viens.  That boy needs a hot Latina!" 

When I said 'stupid little white girl' I always felt like I was betraying myself.  And I was.  I wanted so badly to fit in I sold out. 

When I was 16 I saw a nasty gang fight in which one guy stabbed another guy with a pair of sissors at my high school.

My parents moved us to the White People Side of Town. 

I was a fish out of water.  I didn't speak this language of  "OMG!  Whatever!  Those are soooo last season!"

I had always shopped at Salvation Army or Good Will.  Everything is 'last season' there!

I had a hard time making friends because I learned too late that these sweet little blonde girls would smile to my face and say mean things behind my back.  On Tucson's South Side, girls said what they thought of you to your face.  They slapped you around and pulled your hair but you always knew where you stood.  These sneaky white chicks spun me like a top.

And the little white boys had no idea what to do with a feisty DD Latina.  I scared them to death.  I said what I thought right out loud.  I wasn't coy or shy.  I had to learn to play their games.  It took some time and serious study of the girls around me. (Couldn't get rid of those enormous boobs though...they stuck out like... I was gonna say a sore thumb but the truth is... they stuck out like enormous boobs.)

I eventually figuered out who I was.  I eventually came to terms with the fact that I was different than anyone I came in contact with.  I couldn't be wrapped up neatly with a pretty bow and stacked up next to a group of Mexican girls with gold bracelts up to their elbows.  And I couldn't be stacked up next to a group of white girls with their fancy cars and daddy's credit card.

I stood alone.

There is something to be said for standing alone.  When I found I could not identify with any one race or group I had to discover who I was as a person.  I've learned who I am has nothing to do with race or color.  I have developed a thousand different talents.  People are drawn to me because I've learned how to communicate with people of any race, socio-economic background, age or sex. 

I never knew as a confused half-breed trying to survive in two opposite worlds that didn't want me, one day I would emerge triumphant.  I didn't realize that one day I would become a strong, confident woman.  Those experiences taught me the importance of tolerance, charity and acceptance.

 I'm glad I was a stupid little white girl.  I wouldn't have it any other way!