American | Dominican

Photo credit: provided by subject

Photo credit: provided by subject

I identify as a Straight, Latina, Christian. My Mom is from the Dominican Republic and my Dad is from America but has a strong Dutch and English Heritage. They met in the Dominican when my Dad was doing mission work there. They couldn’t speak each other’s language and so they read the Bible together in their own tongue and fell in love. It’s a beautiful story of mixing cultures.

I went to a predominantly White elementary school and kids would make fun of my poofy hair and freckles. I remember gravitating to the only person who also looked different. She is Chinese/French; she understood what it was like to be not just White and we have been best friends ever since.

We went to the Dominican once or twice every year to visit my Mom’s family and it was wonderful. In our home, mom would often speak Spanish to us and we would respond back in English. White culture doesn’t put a huge emphasis on family, but in Dominican culture, family is EVERYTHING. My Mom used to say, ‘Friends come and go, but family is forever’. My sister and I grew up in White suburbia with both parents. We celebrated holidays like other White families and had a more distant relationship with our extended family (who we still loved but didn’t see as much). We went on houseboats and joined a country club. We were your average middle-class White family with the exception of my Mom being born and raised in the Dominican. I remember I dreaded Saturday mornings because I would try to sleep in but as soon as 8am came along, she would be bustling through my room with a vacuum blasting Juan Luis Guerra.

It was really difficult being a mixed girl in a White world; especially in high school. I wasn’t White enough to feel like I was White, I wasn’t Hispanic enough to be considered Hispanic. Most people thought I was African-American until I corrected them. People would say things like ‘You should sign up for that Black scholarship’ or call me degrading names like the ‘N’ word or ‘nappy headed’. I love my African brothers and sisters but that isn’t my heritage and I desperately was longing to share my mixed heritage with someone. Bad things would happen, and people would take sides, normally White or Black, I didn’t have a voice. When shootings would happen, I didn’t feel like I had the right to be scared because I wasn’t Black; but I was scared. I’ve had boys say, ‘you’re not my type’ and deep down I knew it was connected to the skin I wore and the hair that wasn’t White. I looked different. As a senior superlative, I won ‘Least likely to Tame the Mane’ because my afro was the most important thing about me. People remembered me as the girl with the big hair. I still get that all the time. But I’m more than my hair, I’m human. The language barrier made it difficult to connect with my Dominican side and yet I knew that I would never fully feel known by the White community. I felt like nobody understood. I didn’t belong anywhere, and I knew it. I ended up finding that I identify first as Christian and then as mixed, because in Jesus, there is a place for everyone. Even today, as I am actively proud and vocal about my mixed heritage, I still hold firm that my identify first and foremost is in my Christian faith.

I have always been hyper aware of White guilt. It has played a huge role on who I have made friends with or dated. My biggest insecurity is that someone will want to be with me not because of me but so that they can appease their own sense of guilt. We need to start having conversations about White guilt. I am proud of my heritage, how I look, and my journey. If I sense that someone has major White guilt and is trying to project that, I gently move on because I want to surround myself with people who see the problem and want to make a change towards progress. White guilt makes it all about self instead of community, culture, and change. I don’t need people who are just trying to feel better about themselves, and I don’t want to be used as a means of justifying them. I’m not a project, and I’m not your savior. We can’t change the past, but we can make a better future where all heritages are celebrated. So, I surround myself with people who love me for who I am and not for what peace of mind I can give them. My fiancé is White, and he doesn’t feel bad for being White. In fact, he celebrates his heritage. He recognizes the injustices but instead of wishing he wasn’t White, he chooses to honor and learn about POC (People of Color) while also being confident in his own skin. He celebrates my heritage and encourages me to do the same. He doesn’t understand what it’s like being mixed but he chooses to listen and have the discussion. He wants to understand, and I want him to understand. I want to surround myself with people like him who are conversation starters, movement makers, and compassionate visionaries.

In the past few years, natural hair has become stylish which has been incredible because I let my hair live free without fear of judgement. I used to be so ashamed of my curls, freckles, and nose. In fact, as a kid, I would pin my nose with a clothes pin to try and make it more White. I wished I was White as a kid, but now I love who I am and who God has created me to be.

Finally, as a mixed woman, I feel like I am ahead of the game. The world feels open to me. In the past few years, I have found that I love being different. My mixed-race has given me a way to stand out and I have snatched every opportunity. I love being a part of two incredible heritages: Dominican and Dutch/Irish. My parents have taught me so much about the world and how everybody brings something different to the table. I love the Dominican part of me and I love the white part of me. I’m a worship arts director at a church now, which means I do the music part of a service and I have been humbled considering not too long ago, I as a mixed woman would not have been put into that position. I have loved having the discussion with people within our church about why heritage matters and what we can do as a church to love those who look different or come from different places. I love that as an adult mixed woman, I have a voice in the conversation about racial reconciliation. I used to be afraid about marrying a white guy and how people would look at us, but I am excited to marry the love of my life and have mixed children with him. I am thankful that we will have the opportunity to teach our kids the joy of being mixed because progress is coming, and hope is here. As a mixed woman, I have the incredible opportunity to teach others what it means to celebrate other cultures, races, heritages. I am blessed and grateful to be a mixed woman, every trial leading up to my self-discovery has been made well worth it.