A friend just pointed me to your blog. I guess something about my latest post, told her that if I wasn't reading your blog I should be reading it. I just finished reading a letter from a friend telling me that as a mixed person, he has always felt out of place. Even more so as a mixed race person in the Jewish community, which we both are. We stand out like, well, what's the opposite of a bright light? A black light? A yellowy-orange-y light? It depends on how we got mixed and on who's looking at us that day.
Well, first thing's first, as any loyal reader knows, I come from a long line of hot Latino people. Some of them mixed, some of them not. But in any photo my parents star, their combined hotness rating (inherited from their hot parents) is often jaw-dropping.
(We're Dominican, Hispanic, but people forget that Hispanic doesn't mean you are any particular skin color or race.)
As I watch them survey my father (his side of the family swears I look like them as does my mother's), I add to their shock by pointing out that my paternal grandfather was so white, they just called him "Blanco." White. It wasn't just the color of his skin, it was the name everyone knew him by. I didn't learn his real name until about 20 years after his death. A beautiful Jewish name. But anyway, I guess, it's not just that I read Shakespeare for fun as a kid, before anyone ever thought to call me "white girl," they were calling my Abuelo "White [man]"...only they meant it in a nicer way.
(Trust me, she noticed. She remembered having me cut out from her but no one looked at the two of us and thought mother and daughter OBVIOUSLY. Yeah, and even with my Dad's brother being an actual albino, I don't think she thought she'd give birth to such a light-skinned little girl with almond eyes to boot. I looked like anyone BUT her. I looked Asian. I looked white. I "didn't look Dominican." She'd expected more of a mix but I sunburned (pathetically, she felt) like my father. I looked like them...though people still tell me I look like her! I think myself a lot of things but nowhere near as hot as Mami or Papi.
And anyway, given my mother's own mixed feelings about being darker but still light-skinned, about being mixed race herself though she talked up the European part and pretended everything else away, I can't tell if she'd be happy I finally learned how to tan without passing out and even while wearing SPF 100 or if she still wishes people were still calling me Caspar, Snow White and "HEY, WHITE GIRL!!!" in that nasty way they did because they thought I didn't look right or talk right, because she didn't want me looking, acting or talking anything like those kids.
My definitely more brilliant, if sometimes criminally insanely brilliant, mother dropped out to take care of us and regretted every day I lived with her. All seventeen years before I ran away, I heard about how dropping out, having kids too young, having kids at all, had ruined her life. I know now why she dropped out, why she became a stay-at-home Mom for life. At least, I think I know so I can never tell her that why she did it, to protect us from what the horrors she had suffered as a child, unfortunately, didn't keep us safe from all that she wishes it would and should have. It didn't protect us from the person who hurt us most...HER. It didn't protected us from all the other people who hurt us, too. The ones who hurt us right under her nose when we were too afraid to tell her and the ones who hurt us long after we'd run away from her, thinking nothing worst could happen to us.
We had three Spanish teachers in our school: one was a white man with no Hispanic background but a penchant for bullfighting, another was an even lighter-than-me Puerto Rican girl from a family where everyone went Ivy League and the third was, well, what "a real Dominican looks like" I was told time and time again when I reminded everyone, including my students that I "really, really, really was 100% Dominican." Well, as 100% Dominican as anyone can be. My favorite day was the day I was substitute teaching and all the students decided to rebel against "just another white teacher who hates us" (usually, I get "you look mixed" not "you look white") until I read them the riot act and then had them hanging on my every word.
I only survived two years of teaching before I became disabled and I doubt that was long enough to teach every single one of my students how to write a proper sentence, how to write the perfect five paragraph essay or even to really convince them that they could do what I had already done before them: survived what seemed impossible and do even better than my fore-bearers.
I hope, like you, that I convinced my students that someone who looked like them and who came from where they came from could stand in front of a classroom someday to teach a language none of her grandparents spoke or stand in front of whatever room they wanted to lead or sit behind whatever desk they wanted sit behind or do whatever they REALLY wanted to do but were afraid would never happen because no matter what they'd been told for 11 or so years, I believed they were good enough and strong enough, even if I knew they had to work 100 times harder and do it on an empty stomach often with every G-dforsaken obstacle in the way.
I told them what I still only half-believed barely making ends meet on my teacher's salary...that hard work, luck, hope, ambition, sheer will, even on that perpetually empty belly, could propel them farther than they had ever imagined going. There are places as a child I thought I'd only ever see in books that I have gotten to see, touch, breathe in and I wanted that for each and every one of my students. I wanted them to go to all the places they thought they could never, would never, go.
I can still hear your prayers and I still have some of them saved, saved your letters wishing me good health, wishing me everything I wished for you and more. I've gotta (do not use this in a proper essay) believe that your prayers will get heard in the right place and make a difference.
Writer, Blogger, Speaker, Rebbetzin-in-training-wheels
For blog or press kit inquiries: email@example.com
Watch me on the Jewish Channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suWNpeRSuKU
Orthodox Conversion Support group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/orthodoxconversionsupportgroup/join
"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" (Nietzsche)...or at least makes a good story." (Aliza)