For as long as I can remember, I have felt like an outcast. Like people did not understand me. People resented me for reasons I do not know. Whether it was family, friends, outsiders I barely knew. People have always felt the need to label me or tell me why I was not good enough. I have felt like I was fed exed into this family. Being half Hispanic and half white, things never felt like they connected. My mom is from Puerto Rico and that side of the family speaks fluent Spanish. I grew up listening to Spanish music, eating Spanish food, and being around my relatives who were of an olive complexion and here I am, a little white girl with pig tails who felt like she did not belong.
My mom would tell me stories about how people in the family would say I was too white. I would have uncles and aunts who commented and cousins too. I tried so very hard to fit in, but what was the reason? Family is supposed to accept you and love you, right?
My dad’s side of the family is white, hence my name. I juggled trying to connect these two parts of myself because I am constantly greeted with doubt, hate, and uncertainty. “How can you be hispanic with that last name?” I had extended family members in Puerto Rico even ask me why my mother married a white man. Most of my relatives have dated or married into a Hispanic family; not my mom. She chose my dad. They were a blind date set up by friends of theirs; they met at a Halloween party. My mom tells me stories about how my dad was not her type. When she first saw him, she said he was short and showed up late which she did not like because my mom is a very punctual person. She said she was attracted to his personality and how he included my brother with lots of activities like going to the movies, etc. My brother and I come from two different fathers. Hence, another reason I feel like an outcast. We both have different names that are on two different ends of the spectrum. He has a fully Hispanic name and looks like my mom. Here I am, white girl with a completely white name. People would comment and whisper things like, “Is that even your brother? You must have been adopted. You guys can’t be related.” This would make me so angry. I did not care if he had a different skin tone, different name, different father. HE was MY brother and that was that.
My mom’s side of the family speaks fluent Spanish. My dad’s side does not. The relatives on my father’s side mostly married another Caucasian person. There was always a disconnect between my mother’s side of the family and my father’s side. It felt like an all out war and I did not understand the cause. I felt like I was standing in a field, while both sides of the family stood at each end waiting to attack. I stood there trying to decide which side I wanted to fit into most. I wanted so badly for both sides to come together.
We would get together at family parties and what not. But it never felt right. I had relatives on my mother’s side look down on my father because they saw him as this white man that my mother should not have married. My grandma did not choose sides. She did not resent my father or me. She welcomed us in with open arms.
My brother would often make hurtful comments. He never claimed me as his sister. He always made me feel rejected because of the father I come from. The pain from this has been unbearable. I have aches in places I never even knew existed. People in this family have looked down upon me because of the man I call my dad.
I have had people cut me out of their lives, resent me, talk badly about me, and not even give me a chance to form my own identity because I always lived in his spotlight. People assumed I was the same make as him, they wrote me off like I was nothing and I did not even have a chance to prove I was different. When I was a kid, I always felt like I was treated differently and I always wondered why.
I remember one Christmas party at my aunt’s house and I was 9 years old. While everyone exchanged gifts, my cousins received the best gifts any kid could ask for. I received a card. Kids love gifts during Christmas and here I am at 9 years old wondering why I was not included. I felt the tears start to form in my eyes. But even at 9 years old, I did not like to cry in front of others. My dad would tell me that was a sign of weakness. My mom saw I was upset and took me outside. I was always on the backburner. Always the after thought. My mom embraced me in a hug and said, “It’s okay mama. You will understand when you’re older. I can’t explain why people act the way they do. You have to be strong.” I wanted so badly to be strong, but how strong could I have been at 9 years old?
There has always been a disconnect with both sides of the family, struggling to connect both sides of my nationality, and trying to juggle the day to day pain of me feeling like I do not belong.
“Oh you’re just a little white girl, what do you know? You have a white father, you aren’t Hispanic. Why did your mother marry a white man? She could have done better.” These comments have been sketched into my memory and I want so badly to forget.
This really hits close to home because I have always felt marginalized. There were certain family members who welcomed me in with open arms and made me feel included, like I was not crazy for thinking that I was an outsider. I just wanted people to accept me. Not look at my skin complexion, or my last name, or the fact that I am half white. I always wanted to belong. To something. To a group. To a family.
I guess this is why I am so big on family. When I have my own children, I will never allow them to feel less than or like they are not good enough. It should not matter the color of your skin, or how ethnic your name may be, or what family you belong to, or how many friends you have. You should be accepted for you and no one should make you feel inferior without your consent.
I have battled hating myself for who I am and where I come from. I have hated my name. I have wanted to feel more Hispanic. I felt this need to rid myself of my white name to feel more Hispanic. To prove to this family that I do belong. I have wanted to climb out of this skin. I have tried to claw my way out. To breathe. To feel something.
I am a person. I am a human being. Because I do not share the same skin complexion as you or the same last name, I am very much a part of this family. I have struggled with accepting who I am and the family I was born into. My thoughts matter and my voice matters. What I have to say matters and I want to say these things because this has been boiling to the surface for almost 24 years of my life. So I sit here in my kitchen, with the sunlight seeping through the dining room window, and I write. And man does it feel good to tell this story. As I release these thoughts I feel a sense of healing. A sense of acceptance. A sense of grieving. A sense of finally realizing what truly matters. As the saying goes, you cannot choose your family and you cannot control the actions of others. You can choose how you respond to these actions and whether you want it to have power over you.
I choose to be strong. I choose to be me. I choose to be whole entirely on my own without the approval or validation of anyone. I stand tall because I can. I accept myself because I can. I no longer wish to allow these people who never gave a damn about me anyway to have power over me. They have no right to say these things. I have found comfort in the arms of friends who have become my family. God has given me these obstacles to learn how to love myself. To have hope. To stand tall. To make my voice heard. He has given me this talent to write so I can tell my story and hopefully inspire someone else to share their story.
All these years of wanting to fit in and you know what I learned through it all? I choose to be the outcast. I choose to be different. You do not like me? You do not accept me as your blood so be it. Life goes on. It has been an all out war trying to accept every aspect of who I am. You think I will allow others to make me feel less than when I already struggle with acceptance?
You never claimed me as your blood then, do not claim me when you see the success I will create.