Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hey, My Mom is a Minority~!

George Lopez, "Why You Crying?"

My daughter said she had an epiphany the other day--she realized her mother is not white. I looked at her like she had sprouted another head and asked her what she meant. Now, you have to realize I call my beautiful daughter "my little white girl." She is half white, half Mexican, but you would not realize it when you looked at her. She has a very pale face with incredible gray hazel eyes and beautiful thick hair. When her hair was dyed red, she looked so Irish it was scary. But she has grown up with my large Mexican family and all their customs and quirks, but I do not speak Spanish and my ex is white, mostly Irish.

I asked my dad once why they did not teach us kids how to speak Spanish when we were younger. His answer was so sad to me. He grew up in Miami, Arizona, a small mining town. (Yes, I am only second generation.) Growing up, they were not allowed to play golf on the local golf course because they were not white, but my Uncle Beto was a fabulous golfer, so he was allowed to caddy and play after hours. In school, they had text books that said that Mexicans were good for certain kinds of work because they were good with their hands. We have an annual family reunion in my uncle's name and it is always centered around golf. My brother is an incredible golfer. (I think they learn it in medical school.) My uncle died in World War II, I believe in the Normandy invasion. I have a copy of a letter he wrote home to my grandmother that is so beautiful, it will bring tears to your eyes. It is so well written, it is hard to believe he was first generation with parents that barely spoke English.

Discrimination was a fact of life for my parents, but in my life, it has been only a small consideration. They felt that us kids speaking Spanish would not help us to assimilate, so we grew up only speaking English to my parents. Now, THEY would speak Spanish to each other. Growing up I thought it was like code, they could talk about us right in FRONT of us and we had no idea what they were saying. I learned enough to know when we were in trouble though.

I have the George Lopez clip but I cringe a lot when I watch it. Some of the stories he tells are so familiar to me, I feel like we grew up together. My mom calls me mija, we have beans with almost every meal, menudo on New Year's, and strange family members. I was so relieved growing up to find out that EVERYONE has strange family, foods unique to them, and customs that others might find, well, interesting.

But I am really bugged by his portrayal of the "white" people. It is so....condescending. I feel like he emphasizes the difference but refuses to see the similarities in all families. I guess what I found fascinating about my daughter's statement was how little it has mattered in her life, that it is normal. Look at our new president, another mixed race mutt. I always think of Martin Luther King when I think about this (which truthfully I rarely do) and how growing up we would look forward to judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

We are not there yet, and human nature being what it is, we will probably never be there, but I feel we have come FAR if my daughter can spend 19 years on this planet and only just now realize that her mom is second-generation with grandparents on both sides born in Mexico. And it makes my head hurt thinking about my grandson's heritage, his dad is Hawaiian, white, and myriad other races and cultures.

So, enjoy George Lopez and I do remember being asked, "Why you crying?"


Casey said...

Wait!!Your Mexican?!

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Well, gosh, not really. I know "real" Mexicans have a name for me. You know, one who is "white" inside and can't speak Spanish. I am sure George Lopez would be happy to enlighten me, but I would be afraid to get his answer~! I just thought it was so funny that Kelly said that. Kids say the darndest things.

Jeanne said...

Kat - this is a great post. I know someone who's family is part american indian, part mexican and their grandparents also came from Mexico. His grandfather was the first sheriff of Julian. Their grandparents felt the same way you did and taught their kids to speak english only. I can't imagine what life for both sets must have been like growing up. Thanks for sharing that! I love hearing about people's experiences.

julie said...

That's my Kelly! In the school system when I was growing up in Woodland Hills, I never came in contact with mexicans. My parents favorite mexican restaurant was Taco Bell. When bussing hit and I actually saw a mexican they were cholos you know with the black baggy pants and black shoes and hair nets. Blood hell I was scared. Not a good introduction. I thought all mexican's had a switch blade knife that turned into a comb.
Isn't that sad? I'm glad I didn't miss out on marrying into the Romeros!

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

HAHAHA. I only hope they pronounced Taco correctly, you know, not like tack-o. Where I went to school, we had no blacks at all until I was about a junior or senior (so long ago it is hard to remember) but he did not last long. The damn football jocks made his life hell. We had plenty of white and Hispanic families though.

Catholic schools are strange places. I knew a few girls who were going to be nuns, which was funny to me because when I was in school one of the nuns became a "civilian" and married the religion teacher~! He later became the principal of that same school.

Going to school, I thought all families were large. At 5 kids in our family, we were on the small side. I had plenty of friends who had 7 or more though.

I guess that was the point of my blog. I do not know think about race that much. When I am with friends, I am just with friends, not white friends or any other race friends. We do discuss cultures a lot--one is Greek with a large boisterous family, one is married to an Italian and she sends me all kinds of funny stories about Italian families.

I would love to hear stories from my friends about their families.