When I was 9 years old, I came home from school one day confused by a question a classmate had asked me. "Are you Black?" I went home that day still stunned by the question and asked, "Mom, what did she mean, how could anyone think I'm not Mexican?". It was the first time anyone had put my nationality into question.
By the time I turned 13 I could not recall how many times my peers had mistaken me for a Filipino, Indian, Pakistani, Hawaiian or Native American girl. I could not recall how many times strangers and friends alike started a conversation with "But where are you really from?" or "Is that your real name?" and my favorite, "Are you a mutt?".
I was 14 when my accomplishments became invalid in the eyes of others because of my appearance. Phrases like, “It must be easy to get in this program because you’re a minority” and “ I’m sure you helped fill the diversity quota” trailed closely behind my friends’ “congratulations”.
For years my “racial ambiguity” has automatically warranted the right for anyone to see me how they want to and judge my accomplishments in the same way. As a result I have been asking the same questions for years...Am I truly the diversity quota? Am I the space that was left over? Am I qualified? Or just required?
To this day I am still asked "What are you?" as if the answer to this question is the most important thing I can offer. As if I owe anyone an answer to begin with. I wonder if people will always show me this disrespect and not realize it until they see my expression and quickly ask, "Oh calm down, that's not racist is it?".
Yes it is racist, no I will not calm down, and my race and ethnicity are no one’s business.