Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Labels

"What race would you want us to list your daughter under?" Wow, now that's a loaded question! I looked at my very pale, green eyed, brown hair, tall one year old and was speechless.

"Hm, white, I guess." and I added "But she's half Puerto Rican." "Although she looks white".

Come to think about it, I also look white. I'm probably one of the most pale Puerto Ricans you will ever meet. My cousin Edgar says I'm so pale, I look like I need a blood transfusion. But in this country of labels that tend to define you more often than not, I may look white, but I'm Hispanic. My race is well defined. Amelia's race---not so much.

I can't believe at her young age, I was in charge of giving Amelia her first label. From now on she will be a Caucasian female. But that definitely is not my daughter. Amelia is the wonderful combination of two races, two cultures, two religions. Two people who were born in two very different places but were raised with the same values and moral code. Yet, we have to classify her as something so society can handle it.

I admit, it's probably my issue to deal with. I hate labels and when I came to the U.S. for college, I realized we are all about labels here. I'm Puerto Rican, Hispanic, female, yet I refuse to let all those labels define me.

Also, I dread the day that Amelia says in her perfect, non accented English "Oh, yeah, my Mom is Puerto Rican". Like she has no connection to where I'm from, like she doesn't belong to that part of me at all. When I married Steve, more than the religion issue, my biggest deal was that my child was not going to be Puerto Rican, born and raised like me. I actually told him I would raise her Jewish as long as we could foster her Puerto Rican identity. At one point I thought about giving birth on the island. That is the reason Amelia has already been to PR three times in her short life. I only speak Spanish to her and teach her the few kids songs I remember from my childhood.

So, when that woman asked about Amelia's race, I had to come to terms with the fact that she will also have labels and that Puerto Rican will not be one we share. I can only hope to raise her very proud of her Latin and American heritage. That she admires the fact that her father and I were able to look beyond our labels and create our own loving family.



5 comments:

lynnie said...

So sad you have to "label" your child at such a young age. I'm 100% Filipina (both of my parents were born there), was born in America, but like you, am really pale. (My cousin once told me she needs to wear sunglasses to look at my white legs).

I think as long as you instill your PR/Jewish culture/religion (mixed with the American side), she will turn out beautifully.

Ana Belaval said...

I hope so. Thanks for your comment and for checking out the blog.

Ana

espinosa said...

Hey, Nice Blog!
I just gave a lecture in a Politics of Race class where the students, mostly from Chicago, did not understand that Latino or Hispanic is not a "race." They were reacting to the fact that Latinos in Chicago are defining themselves as white and they did not understand why. So my friend brought in the historian (ME!).
Mariola

Ana Belaval said...

You are the historian. I love it! I'm sure most of the students were shocked that you were also born and raised in Puerto Rico. I'm so happy to hear from you. Thanks for checking this out.

Un abrazo,
Ana

RA Sherman said...

Congratulations Ana. I feel very proud.
For your latino readers please clarify that the blogs tittle is
Ayyy Maaamá!!!!
Tio Roger