My Grandma Is Racist
She dislikes exactly 50% of me — the Brown half. The Latina half. The half that invaded her suburban fairy tale to knock up her daughter.
She has itemized me in dressing rooms. She likes my “White” legs but not my “Latin” hips. She likes my eye shape but not the color. She likes my Jennifer Aniston straight hair but not the dark chestnut hue.
She has called my thighs fat and then bought me clothes.
She has encouraged me to say I’m Italian. “You could pass,” she has said. She has encouraged me to marry White so my kids would (possibly) look more White and I would “fix” my mother’s “mistake.”
She is a part of me.
I have her love for true crime, for puzzles, for sudoku. We both actually know how to play minesweeper and are good at it. We have the same shoe size, and we have the same taste in shoes. I have her love of travel and her anger. Like her, I can go from calm, to enraged, to calm again.
Racists are assholes. Their problem with me being mixed is and always will be their problem, not mine.
For those of you who will use this as an excuse to say that mixed kids are “confused” and therefore couples shouldn’t mix, just admit that you are racist.
Do not factor racism into your decision to have mixed kids or not. Have kids as an expression of love. Decide who you want to have kids with as an expression of love. Not to please a racist grandma.
And, at the same time, if you cannot genuinely love someone who is of a different race, then don’t force yourself as some misguided act of charity. You’re not Mother Teresa if you have a mixed kid. You’re not saving the planet.
Have kids as an expression of love. They may be mixed. They may not be. That should be irrelevant to the love and respect you have for your partner.
I was never confused about who I was. I have awesome parents who love me. And I have always known that racists are assholes. Their problem with me being mixed is and always will be their problem, not mine. It’s their rage, their anger that’s theirs to carry.
I am not 50% this and 50% that. I am 100% me.
One Christmas, my racist grandma didn’t want my Latina aunt to take part in the Secret Santa the White side of my family was hosting because she wasn’t “really family.”
“She’s my aunt,” I said.
“You know what I mean,” she replied.
I did know what she meant. It was that other 50% of me. The 50% she would rip right out of me if she could.
My grandma didn’t want my Latino family members photographed during family parties. I photographed them anyway. I put them right in the center. I made it impossible to crop them out.
It’s the little victories.
She didn’t say hello to my other grandma when she saw her. When another White aunt of mine said she was engaged (also to a Latino), my grandma pretended she did not know who her fiance was (they had been living together for years).
As a child, I had to be nice to this grandma out of some strange family obligation. Part of it was fear. She took me on trips. She bought me clothes and told me I looked fat in them… the same “fatness” that is treated as beauty in Latin America.
I am the future. She is the past.
The older I got, the more distance I created. Now, I only see her at weddings for the most part.
She once hit me for speaking Spanish. Now, when she makes a racist comment about Latinos, I respond to her in Spanish. She usually gets frustrated and walks away from me. She has no idea what I’m saying, because like many Americans, she never bothered to learn a second language. I have. And I aspire to learn more. She can’t take that away with her petty remarks.
The little girl she hit and insulted and insisted should pretend to be Italian has grown up to be confident and beautiful and unabashedly Latina.
It’s the little victories.
And she is wrong. I am not 50% this and 50% that. My legs and my hips cannot be separated. My hair texture from its color. My texture from my color.
I am something new and different.
If I have kids, they will not be a correction of some mistake. They will not be tied to the past. They will be new, beautiful mixes and creations of love.
I am 100% me.
I am my own thing. I have parts of her and parts of other people inside of me. Some of those parts are good. Some of those parts are not so good. And I choose how they are expressed — To be good at puzzles, to like crime shows, but also to be kind, to cure my anger with understanding and empathy.
My grandma is racist against me, and it doesn’t mean a thing. I am the future. Any kids I have will be the future.
She is the past.