Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The most important lesson I've learned in Argentina...

I learned from Franc.

It was late, REALLY late one Saturday evening and we were seated on a cornflower-blue colored couch just talking. Real talk talking. I was explaining my beliefs, showing him clips about the Church, laughing at how excited he was to learn that Clayton Christensen is a member (he's read his business books—but of all people to be excited about being Mormon!?!?!?!?!?!)

I'm perfectly fluent in Spanish, but my personality was made for the English language. So we conversed in our own perfectly understood way, me in English and he in Castellano, and it felt like the most natural thing in the world. Somehow identity made its way into the conversation. I explained to him how my Dad is Mexican, but my Mom was born in the states, but she is also Mexican. '¿Como puede ser que to Mamá es Mexicana si nació en los Estados Unidos?' Well, her parents are from Mexico, so she's Chicana. 'Eso es confuso.' You know, just like how I'm Chicana.... 'Si vos querés luchar para igualdad en la educación, la primera cosa que tenés que hacer es quitar todas las distinciones. ¿Mexicana, Chicana? No entiendo, vos sos white!'

My first reaction was o u c h.

It was an impulse, a signal to my brain to put up the defenses. Because I've just grown accustomed to having that be an insult. Because somewhere along the way society taught me that being white is a negative thing. I mean there's that Jay-Z/Kanye song whose opening line is "'ello, 'ello, 'ello white America, assassinate my character."

But, wait why is it this way? What is race, but the color of our skin? Some of my greatest heroes and inspirational figures are white, but yet it's a plague of unspeakable-ness to avoid at all costs, and you must do everything in your power to avoid being labeled 'white' or even worse the dreaded 'white-washed'. Some of my closest friends are white. For the longest time I've been in this, 'oh, it's okay that they're white, but I'm definitely not' mentality. In reality what Franc was trying to say is that I'm 100% American and that's 100% accurate.

There's an identity crisis in the United States. For some reason as multiracial people of the US of A when someone asks us what we are, we list off the names of the homelands of our parents or ancestors or identify with the color of our if we need qualifiers or an explanation for why we're here. Why?!?!! Why is that a thing? I have never once heard someone who is of lighter complexion explain that they're German or English or Dutch unless a) someone is inquiring about their family history or b) they have a noticeable accent. & then there's the 'where are you from?' question. Because you know, being a person with darker skin or different facial features automatically means you're outside of the country...

I'm American.
Born here.
Bred here.
Happy to be here. (okay, so technically I'm writing this from Buenos Aires, but you get the point...)
I've been to Mexico a few times and while I love to visit, I wouldn't ever consider it home.

It hit me hard, REAL hard. All these thoughts all at once. I was silent for a good minute. I told Franc it was divine discontent. I tried to explain President Crawford's phrase and then was worried that perhaps the phrase is meant to be confined to use in a strictly religious context. Wikipedia informed me otherwise. 

We as human beings have this distinction mentality, an impulse to label. If you do these types of things you fit into this category; if you do these types of things find your seat over there.

When did certain activities only become okay for certain races to do?
Why can't I love musicals and camping and baseball games and going on adventures and hiking and witty British dramas and bucketlists and have my favorite food be hamburgers without being labeled 'white'?

Or wear timbs and love hip-hop so much that I write a research paper about the grammar of it, but because my voice sounds the way it does ("really 'white'") I somehow couldn't possibly be from Compton, CA (the 'hood')! Yo, I have the DMV issued drivers license to prove it!

Is there a mold that we need to fit to validate where we are from or what we do? I don't think I signed up for that anywhere. I have too many categories I could be a part of, and no sole label feels 'right' to define me as a whole.

Why do we reinforce distinctions by having slogans like, "black lives matter?" Doesn't everyone's life matter? Or focus on the "latino vote" or "black vote" and try to win over certain races when it comes to political hot topics? Or claim we have poly pride, brown pride, black pride? Why? WHY? whhhhyyyyy? Aren't we just creating our own mental form of segregation? Sorry white people, you're not allowed here. What about proud to be Americans? Why is that a scary thing for us to say as multicultural people? Maybe the whole reason racism still exists is because we keep talking about how we're different, and we often times use our differences as ways to explain how we're better. Of course we never admit it because nobody wants to be labeled 'racist' but we are still fighting an inner mental battle with ethnocentrism.

I'm all for loving your culture, don't get me wrong. I love the traditions of my ancestors, and they contribute to who I am today, but my traditions don't make me better than someone else and they're not things that have to stay within the realms of my skin color. Other people can love Mexican food and make good salsa and learn to dance folklorico if they want. This is 'MERICA!

I mean hello, my name is Lauren Marie Flores, and that name embodies perfectly everything that I've just babbled on about. The beauty that is the Melting Pot. That is my America.

I'm American.
Or even Yankee if you prefer.
I accept it.
I embrace it.
My ancestors are from Mexico.
My last name, that probably came from Spain.
Above all, me and everyone else on this planet is a child of God.

In my quiet solitude, my moments of divine discontent after Franc called me 'white' the words of 4 Nephi 1: 15-17 flooded into my mind as if someone were reading them to me, 

"And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of —ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."

I shared the general background story of this passage with Franc and explained that his words had really just reminded me of what I already believe in, but maybe haven't been the best at putting into practice.

& then Franc did some fancy thumb work on his iPhone, pulled up Youtube and started playing this song (John Lennon's Imagine) and all I could do was laugh, because by this time it was 3 in the morning and I just couldn't even handle what was going on. 

circa 2002 when most of my wardrobe came from LimitedToo.


Andrea said...

i, uh, am not one to comment much on blogs but ... i just wanted to let you know i love this a lot.

Alyssa Huber said...

Ditto that ^. Thanks for sharing!

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