You Mean, I'm not Puerto Rican?

A good friend of mine from high school, let's call him James, is also mixed. We never talked about our mixed heritages when we were in high school so, based on his looks, I assumed he was some combo of black and white and I left it at that.
Several years after we graduated, James and I ran into each other at a party. When I asked him how it was going he said he was dealing with a lot at the moment. As a sensitive girl with a crush, I asked him what was going on. James tells me that all of his life, he had been told that his dad was a Puerto Rican guy from Chicago. Recently his father had turned up and admitted to being just a regular African-American dude (don't get mad, he really was from Chicago!). Overnight, James went from being half Irish, half Puerto Rican to being half black, half white. It rocked his world.
I told James he should have asked me - I could have told him that from the first day we met! 
Recently, we were talking about this identity flip again. James told me that his dad was part of a generation of black men who decided that they could do better with ladies and life if they weren't black. But, they couldn't pass for white - so they picked something, anything but black, and tried to pass that off. 
James is comfortable with who he really is. I hope his father, and other men like him, can be, too.

1 comment:

  1. Two nights ago I watched a documentary on PBS about the 1954 case of Hernandez v. Texas, a Supreme Court victory for Mexican-Americans in their fight for equal rights. While a triumphant story, one fact screamed sadness at me. There were some Mexican-Americans who, in the face of discrimination, decided their argument for equal rights was that "they were white also". It's tough being perceived as "different", and not being part of the power structure. But if we simply acquiesce, and don't stand up and say 'regardless of who you think I am, I should be treated no differently than you', we're simply passing (no pun intended) this struggle onto the next generation. BTW - who's ever heard of a Puerto Rican getting more respect than a black guy? Where'd this man get his information? I suppose the game is different in Chicago.