Sitting outside of commons, attempting to think of an idea for a blog post, I began to overhear a conversation that a women and two men were having at the table next me. The conversation turned out to be all too relevant to our class to not write about.
Sitting at the table, half doing homework, half talking, the women mentioned something relating to the fact that she identifies as Latina. The three guys proceeded to giggle, claiming she couldn’t be Latina, she was “too white”. Straight faced and confused, she clarified that she identifies as both white and Latino, but still more strongly as Latina. The three men proceeded to question her as she sat defending her heritage. “Do you even speak Spanish?” – “yes, fluently.” “Can you salsa?” – “What does that have to do with anything!” “How come you’re so pale!” – “I’m not even that pale and it just started getting warm like yesterday!” Throughout this conversation there were laughs and a feeling of lightheartedness from the guys, but you see on her face and sense in her demeanor that she was uncomfortable, and getting upset.
The women then asked how they really qualified whether or not she was “allowed” to identify as Latina. One of the men replied by saying that because “during the times of the civil war she would have been defined as white, then she was white.”
The conversation then ended when another friend approached the table, but I couldn’t help thinking about that interaction for some time afterward. Despite the fact that ethnicity and race were being mistakenly interchanged throughout this conversation, I still was confused as to what gave these three guys so much satisfaction in questioning how this women could and could not identify? Was it the fact that they too did not identify fully as white, but unlike her they could not “pass” in society as white? Thus they could not gain some of the benefits she perhaps has been able to gain in growing up, seen by society as white? I may be completely overthinking this whole interaction, but having talked about this idea of “passing” in class, I couldn’t help but consider it.
Regardless, I think this conversation is very representative of the way many people are feeling in todays’s society. There is this sense that there are people who take on certain identities only when it’s somehow beneficial for them. However, when someone is proud of their ethnicity or race, I don’t think that they should ever be questioned. If we are ever to truly have an equal, cohesive society, we must stop so desperately trying to divide ourselves and define one another.