Since I have arrived in South Africa it has become more apparent to me that race is, most of the time, a subjective perception. People in general seem to have the need to categorize everyone and everything, regardless of any true scientific merit.
First, I should start by giving my heritage and then try to explain:
|Grandmother: ½ Cherokee (Native American), ½ Western European Descent
|Grandmother: Native South American (Argentina)
Grandfather: ½ Italian, ½ French
|Mom: ¼ Cherokee, ¾ all kinds of white||Dad: ½ Native South American, ¼ French, ¼ Italian|
|Me: 1/8 Cherokee, ¼ Native South American, 1/8 Italian, 1/8 French, The rest Dutch & German and whatever other Western European thrown in.|
I am from America and I have a Latino surname: Rodriguez, this leads people in America to believe that I am completely, 100% Latina. Due to this label that has been given to me, when I fill out forms and am asked what race I fall under, I always tic the box that says “Latino”. When applying to Universities, I was automatically given special access to scholarships, courses to gear me to success and clubs solely because I am considered “Latino”. In America we are considered a minority (although fast growing) and somewhat underprivileged, therefore we get perks when it comes to some hiring in government jobs and access to scholarships purely based on our perceived heritage.
The labelling doesn’t stop with the government and schools; it is also upheld by the public as well. Friends, colleagues, even people on the street recognize me as a Latino. I have no issues with this and am quite proud, particularly since I am ¼ Native South American, but if we were to break it down, I am so mixed that this label is ridiculous from a literal stand point.
This has been normality for the duration of my life and I had come to accept and even hold a certain pride with my “Latino” status. Now, I find myself in South Africa and since my arrival, I have suddenly turned “White”. I have no idea when my label changed, but it has. I am no longer regarded as an oppressed minority Latino with access to school financial aid and programs; I am now “White” with no special treatment at all. Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) a program designed to give people of color an advantage in the job market, much like affirmative action in America (which I used to qualify for) does not apply to me.
I am not going to get into the politics of all of this since that isn’t the purpose of what I am writing and it is too complex to go into any way. I am more concerned about labels and how they change from place to place. Why people feel the need to make the color of one’s skin or their features such an issue. By labelling each other it sets a dividing line between us.
It is clear that I am a complete mutt, a myriad of cultures mashed together in one body and, I hope, a representation of the future to come. I dream of a world where everyone is so mixed, no one can point the finger and be concerned about one’s race, the color of one’s skin or what sort of ethnic features one possesses. No need for affirmative action or violence due to racial tensions, but a World where we all see each other as human.
God, I am too idealistic.