Today I am Latina

Based on outside feedback, this week I'm Latina. Based on genetics, I am not. Confused? You're not alone.

In the past I've talked about group think and the random shifts in how I am perceived, racially. Some days, I'm Black. On those days, I get acknowledging nods from black people on the street. Black people that I interact with, who are strangers, talk to me like we're old friends.

The "Black days" are comfortable because, in large part, that's what I am. But it doesn't matter what I think I am because, when I first meet someone, they interact with me based on what THEY think I am. And for quite a while, everyone agreed I was Black, inside and out.

Lately, I've had to work harder to establish myself as Black. No big struggles, just notable.

This week, I learned why. Apparently, I'm shifting to being Latina. Three proof points:

First, I met a man at the gym. He's from Italy. Cool, I love Italy. He said, "But you're Spanish, right?" Me, "No." Him, "But your name is Serena (it isn't) and you have some Spanish in your face."

Aside from boggling my name and making it sound like I have paella stuck to my cheeks, what does this mean? Thanks to being a mix of European, Native American and African stock, almost any one of my features might be Spanish but they could also be anything else. I chalked it up to my new friend being from Italy and kept moving.

Second, I was talking to my favorite clerk at the grocery store. He asked me what I do for living and I told him I write children's books. "Wow," he says. "Are they bilingual?" Me, "Uh, no, why?" Him, "Oh, they aren't in English and Spanish?" Me, (nervous laughter) "No, I don't speak Spanish." Him, (nervous laughter) "Oh...Ok...Well, it's cool that you're a writer."

This man has been talking to me for two years. I've never spoken Spanish to him and I have a Midwestern accent. I live in a neighborhood that is 80% White and about 20% Asian. I can understand him not thinking I'm the only local Black person, but why go Hispanic? There's no obvious answer. So I chalk it up to group think and the phase of the moon.

Except, THIRD, Yahoo! fed up this M&M ad in Spanish for me. I haven't done anything on Yahoo! to indicate an ability to speak Spanish. So, despite behavior to the contrary, right now, even my technology thinks I'm Latina. It's not bad, but it is weird.

No lesson learned. Just the life of a mixed chick in the U.S. Off to enjoy another day of surprising people with my secret blackness.

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