Being a woman of color is something I have learned to embrace. I am different than others, but that doesn’t make me less or more important than them. I may have different hair and skin. Our cultures are very different and sometimes you can tell I am not full white because of my accent. The term ‘women of color’ is a very sensitive term, but this term and the subject of colorblindness are things that we should be able to discuss openly.
‘Women of color’ is a term used to identify women that aren’t Caucasian. I have learned that the term can be misleading, depending on what part of the country you live in. I asked an Asian friend if she considered herself a ‘woman of color’ and she answered “No.” When I asked her why, I was actually shocked when she said because she does not have dark skin. I can’t say I didn’t feel a little offended. It was then I learned that some women who fall under ‘women of color’ don’t even consider themselves a woman of color because of the shade of their skin.
I like to think of ‘colorblindness’ more as “looking the other way.” Not only is our identity being neglected when someone fails to see that our culture, skin color, and race are different but we fail to take the chance to educate those around us. Phrases like “I don’t see color; I see people” or “we are all human” are the cause of colorblindness. When someone fails to see your differences, what makes you unique, whether it be your skin color, culture, race, or language; they are choosing to be colorblind. When being “colorblind,” you are being ignorant to our differences.
“I don’t like what I am seeing, so let’s pretend it’s not there” is what I take from statements like that. They see that I am physically here, but they don’t see me. This can also be a problem for the individual themselves. Think about it like this: When someone fails to acknowledge something that is part of your race or culture and you brush it off, aren’t you also being that person who just pretends it didn’t happen and continue supporting the stereotype?
Being told things like “You must drink a lot of tequila” – due to my race – bother me. No, not all Mexicans drink tequila! It makes me wonder if that’s all people see when they meet a Mexican. Yes tequila is part of our culture; one main reason is because it’s made and exported there. That still gives you no reason to relate me to the cheap tequila bottle you probably have in your cabinet. Even then, I’ve stayed quiet and gave into the stereotype.
How about you ask me about its background? Ask me what Mexico is like or something but don’t associate me with the ignorant stereotypes you assume about Mexicans. For as long as I can remember, “Don’t speak Spanish” has been the most heard phrase. How can I not speak my own tongue? When people told me this I used to not say anything. I would look the other way; it was easier. It made me feel inferior and that Spanish was a low-class language. It was phrases like these that made me forget I was Mexican-American. I was being isolated from my American traditions and I often felt I had to either act “fully American” or “fully Mexican”.
I am neither; I am both and when people associate me with only my Mexican heritage it is difficult to express my American costumes. I have learned to embrace the fact that I speak Spanish, English and Spanglish but I have been left with scars. This experience did help me understand others whose first language isn’t English, that no one should be robbed of their language. Now I can proudly say I am always trying to teach someone a new word, show them my music or even tell them about my trips to Mexico.
Being a woman of color shouldn’t be used to separate me from the world. Instead it should be used to unite me with other women who have similar experiences to me. It should be used as a unifying force to welcome those women who aren’t exposed to these different cultures. Being colorblind is something we have to fight day in day out because in our society we would rather not talk about race and pretend it’s not there than acknowledge it and confront the situation. Color awareness will only happen when we talk about topics like these with open arms instead of crossing our arms and pretending we are all the same. We are not all the same. No, I am not saying we should all be recognized by “labels” society gives us. But do understand that behind these “labels” there are customs, traditions, and values unique to who we are.