Monday, January 18, 2016

What are you? Where are you from?

Me llamo Selena. Mi familia es de Haití y  Panamá. Mis padres de mi padre hablan español. Hablo espanol un poco porque de mis abuelos, mis amigos y escuela. Yo uso mi español en mi trabajo a veces.

Je besoin de plus d'aide avec le français. Mon nom est Selena . Ma mère parle français et je essayer d'apprendre.

...mwen grangou

I have received the top two questions almost all my life. Black people look at me and say, "You're not black." White people look at me and ask, "Are you black?"Most Latinos start speaking to me in Spanish or ignore me and talk in Spanish anyway. Haitians and other Caribbean folks usually guess.

My heritage/ background has great importance to me, but I don't think it should be of great importance to anyone else outside of my family. Will you be my friend only if I am Hispanic? If I'm not "Black" you will give me the job? Yes, I do consider myself Hispanic often, but would I if this were the 70's or 80's? And would anyone care?

I bring this up because I deal with different prejudices from every ethnicity it seems. My family raised me that speaking another language while in the presence of others who do not speak that language is rude. Time and time again, I see people going on in Spanish (usually) and disregarding anyone who doesn't understand. Often I wonder, would I do that if I was more fluent? Will my children be like that? I don't think so. My boyfriend once told me a story about two female co-workers of his were speaking Spanish all day to each other (not saying anything mean about anyone, just speaking). Then when someone came in and greeted another co-worker in French, proceeded to have a conversation... only then was it rude. Is that how us English speakers feel? Are we as ridiculous as those two women?

When I go to Europe, I am always astonished about how fluent everyone is in different languages. I learned enough French to get someone to speak to me in English. One woman said she didn't know too much English to give us directions, but come to find out, she definitely knew more than I knew in French. Which got me thinking, Why don't more Americans know more than one language (other than Spanish)? My manager at work is British, she speaks English, Spanish and French. Another co-worker said, "I wish I could do that." I laughed because factually you really could. The only reason why I know so much in Spanish is because I taught myself and paid attention. You can do the same and probably better.

In our household, we switch in and out of French and Spanish. I practice with my partner because we eventually want to have children and want them to know other languages. I don't plan on being perfect but I have my mother and my grandparents to help. Which leads me back to the two questions above. What will people think my children are? They will have a long list of countries to spew but I hope they will be proud of each and every one. When I was a child, I was very confused about that question. My hair was kinky but not in the way other brown girls at school had kinks. I spoke with a slight accent on words because I replicated and learned words from relatives (like my mother) who have foreign accents. In result, I have a slight pronunciation issue when I say or learn certain words. Which is why I wonder about all this.

Let me tell you something, "What I am?" has minimal to do with "Who I am". That is what I am going to teach my children. In the end of the day, as my father used to say to me, "You are a human being first." And factually, we really are. If the planet was invaded by aliens, you think you're going to care who's German and who's Indian? We should be more concerned about feeling, learning, thinking, creating, and living. Not only the root. The seed is planted and it grows into a tree then produces fruit. Do you still obsess over the seed? No, you take a bite into that fruit and enjoy.

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