I hit the racial jackpot because I’m able to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me as a minority, without actually facing the ugliness some minorities have to deal with on a daily basis.
I have simultaneously skirted racial profiling while reaping the benefits of affirmative action.
My mother is white and my father is Latino. He’s from Venezuela and she’s from the United States.
I didn’t embrace my biracial identity as much in the past compared to now. I once thought it was too ambiguous. I wanted to neatly fit into one category.
It’s only after graduating college, traveling and being in the work force for a couple of years that I recognize my unique and guilt-inducing position.
When I was in high school applying for college scholarships, I would always check “Hispanic” in the race box. The same went for applying to colleges. And while employers are not allowed to ask about race, between my last name and appearance, they probably assumed I was Hispanic.
Yet, I can never recall a time I was followed around in a store. I have only been pulled over by a police officer twice and it was because I was speeding and ran a red light. (Neither interaction resulted in a ticket.) I have never been turned down for a job because of my race, to my knowledge.
I don’t think I won any scholarships or got a job based on my race, but being half Hispanic helped me stand out in a beneficial way. Companies and schools want to appear to embrace diversity, even if they really don’t.
I can’t help but to think my white side shielded me from the ugliness or disadvantages people with two Hispanic parents might face in the United States.
I never struggled with the English language because I heard it spoken in my house. I understand American cultural references that a person with two immigrant parents may not get. I never felt like an outsider at school or at work, even though I am always surrounded by people who don’t look like me.
I really have the best of both worlds and that realization sometimes makes me feel guilty.
Instead of harping on the guilt though, I’m choosing to see my racial identity as a gateway to compassion and understanding.
Being a minority gives me a perspective on the world that wouldn’t be the same if I was completely white. I don’t think I would care as much about social justice issues, diversity in the work place or racial equality in America if both my parents were white.
This isn’t to say white people are not capable of social sensitivity or empathy. It just means when you are raised in a country where your race is widely represented, it’s harder to recognize underlying racial problems.
So even though people ask me where I’m really from or try to test their five Spanish words out on me, all I can do is roll my eyes and know that I am very fortunate.