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Friday, June 12, 2015

Determining One's Ethnicity

 
 A statue of Pedro (Primero Negro) Camejo, a high-ranking officer in Simón Bolívar's army in Venezuela's liberation from Spain.
 
Today, I went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. The customer in front of me, an olive-skinned woman, ordered in Spanish and the cashier responded likewise. When my turn came, I ordered in Spanish and the cashier responded in broken Spanish and English. After responding this way for the third time, I pointed to my Caracas, Venezuela baseball jersey I was wearing and told her in Spanish that in Caracas people speak Spanish as well. Suddenly, thinking that I'm from Venezuela, her Spanish became fluent.


No, I am not from Venezuela, and I never told her that I am from Venezuela. I bought that baseball jersey when I was visiting Caracas, and simply stated that Venezuelan people speak Spanish as well, not just Mexicans—that was the point that I was trying to make. I wanted to teach little miss smarty pants a lesson that you cannot “LOOK” at people and determine their ethnicity.  

Yes, I'm African American, but as far as she, a total stranger is concerned, I could have been an Afro-Spaniard, Afro-Nicaraguan, or even an Afro-Mexican. An Afro-Colombian recently wrote on my blog stating how frustrating it is that in Miami, of all places with a large Afro-Latino population, people still assume that because he is black that he cannot speak Spanish.

The same thing applies to my fellow African Americans. One evening in Richmond, Calfornia, I gave an African-American woman, whom I met for the first time, a ride in my car. She noticed my New York accent and asked me if I am African. Confused, I answered no. She then asked me if I am a “regular black”. Now, what is a “regular” black, considering there are black people all over the world?

  A few African Americans who hear me speak Spanish would look directly at me and ask me if I am black. Of course, I am, what else could I be? Still, others ask me to confirm that I'm African American and not a member of another black ethnic group. Now, that I take as a compliment because it speaks to my global mindset.