Monday, August 14, 2006

Little burning crosses buried in pockets and phones.

The other day I called an agency to possibly model for them. I said the usual hellos and how are you's. You know, the cordial phone stuff. Then the receptionist went straight to business: "How tall are you?"


"And whats your race?" he asked.

"Latina," I proudly told him.

"Oh, so you're Puerto Rican." he informed me.

"Noooooo. Actually I'm Dominican American." I didn't know that Puerto Rican was synomous with Latina. Hmm what about my Chicana sisters and my Brazilian brothers? I guess we're just aliens lacking green cards and seeking aid from the extra-terresterial in the construction of our temples. Of course, I didn't say any of that to the white hooded man in the other end of the phone. By the time, he finished telling me that I was too short for what they were looking for in a model, all I could do (amidst my blinding and muting rage) was say "Fine!" and hang up in the middle of his sentence. A few hours later, as I lathered up my hair in the shower, I finally came up with the best reply, "I didn't know that little burning crosses were still in style."

Fortunately, I haven't suffered through a lot of racism because of my ethnicity. It's usually because of my darker skin tone: many racists often group people with a bit of brown in them as black. It's strange because I identify myself to my mom's island cooking, Marquez and Cervantes language, and my family's Caribbean history, yet I'm hardly ever thought of as Dominican American. I'm often confused for Brazilian, Hawaiian, Indian, Native American, Central American, etc. It's actually a lot of fun to hear people's guesses on my ethnicity. But my biggest concern lies in the stereotypes they enforce with my skin tone and their later discovery of my ethnicity.

"You must eat mangu everyday."
"You must have a kid already."
"You must be married to your cousin."
"You must be so stupid, but FANTASTIC in bed. Come up, and show me how that Latina swing works. *wink, wink* No books required."
"You must talk Spanish, you know, the language with an o at the end of every word, like computero, camero, sexo."
"You must..."
"You must..."
"You must..."

And to add insult to injury: I don't get it only from non-Latinos. I get a lot of it as well from other Latinos. You wouldn't expect that from your own ethnicity, but the race complex in Latin America is so mind-boggling it can make anyone go cuu-cuu for cocoa puffs.

I'm not ungrateful at all with the progress that has been made after the civil rights movement. A lot has been done. Now a black man can actually play golf in the Westchester Country Club, without caddying for someone. A Latina can own a magazine that has as large an audience as Cosmo. However, when two talented African American golfers are accused of a crime without envidence, and when a group of Latino and Pakistani boys are patted down by the cops in Queens simply because of their brown tint, it makes me wonder: maybe we haven't reached the finish line just yet.

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