“So, what are you?”
AHHHHH, NOOOO! Not this question! My heart becomes heavy and my thoughts begin to race as I analyze each word in this probing inquiry. It starts to cut deep all over again…
What am I? Well, I thought human–but I guess my opposable thumbs and skeletal based figurine say otherwise. Oh wait! Are you talking about my ethnic background? Panamanian and Black! Or should I say Black and Panamanian? Which one should I name first?And since my Panamanian side is primarily Black, how do I even identify my identities?
Uh, but I do not really feel comfortable saying African-American since Africa is an entire continent. Too bad I have no idea the African countries my ancestors are from, and my last name shows no trace evidence besides that of the “once upon a time” slave master. Our history began before 1619.
Hmmmm, well my mom is from Panama and has a Kalahari sand complexion. My dad’s from North Carolina with a complexion only a few shades lighter than the moonlit night. And they had me, even though I do not know what “me” really is–
Oh! Realizing that my voice will never catch up to my thoughts, and not further wanting to complicate myself, I manage to tell them:
“Um, just Black!”
If only I did not feel the need to hide myself even more, if I only I could understand “what” I am, if only it was really that simple, if only.
I never knew how to feel about the “what are you?” question, especially since the majority of people who ask me are Black. I get told that my Afrocentric features have an “exotic flare” and that my hair is way too pretty for me to be “just Black.” But what is wrong with being “just Black?” Many (if not all) non-Black persons, including Latin@s, mark my face and body as “just Black.” And still, this question also gives me a sense of joy because it is asking for the side that is usually made invisible. I am proud to be Panamanian! My beautiful isthmus is the eternal flame of my soul, only growing and glowing with time. Pero like, I am not “just Panamanian” either. When I share my passion for one, am I negating the other? Do I seem ashamed?
Am I ashamed?
Will I ever be truly seen? What does “truly seen” even look like?
This was the introduction of my MyStory 1 for my undergraduate research (independent study), “Black and Latina Performance in Communication.” FIRST DRAFT! My final edition is so different now. I may re-post it later. One day…