I’m excited to feature the first guest post on Two or More! This post was written by my uncle, David Pierce Newell. Scroll down to see a photo of us back in the day.
One evening, I walked into a bodega on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to purchase a Guinness. I said hello to the guy behind the counter and he greeted me in Spanish. This was not uncommon for me, in fact, it was the norm for people to speak to me in Spanish right away. While grabbing my Guinness from the refrigerator, I explained that I don’t speak any Spanish. The guy could not comprehend this. In his mind, he had already made up the solid fact that I was 100 percent from Spanish origin.
He asked if I was Puerto Rican. He actually pointed his index finger at me and said, Puerto Rico?
No, I’m not Puerto Rican. While trying to pay, and get on with my life, he asked if I was Dominican.
Again the finger and, Dominica?
No, I’m not Dominican.
Ignoring my outstretched hand, with money in it, he leaned over the counter and asked in English, Why are you ashamed of your Dominican heritage?
To this, I replied curtly, for the man to allow me to purchase the beverage, Sell mi de bloodclaat Guinness nah man! He asked me another question before completing the transaction. While handing me my change he asked, How would your mother feel, right now, knowing that you deny your Puerto Rican heritage?
Once back in the world, Guinness in hand and my sneakers chewing up the NYC sidewalks, I figured it would be easier to have just said, yes, I’m Dominican and Puerto Rican. I mean, how the hell is he supposed to be able to conceive that my Mom and two older brothers are from Jamaica, me and my sister are born in NY and my father, of whom I am his only biological child, is a white man born in Chicago, with roots going back to fighting alongside Robert the Bruce in Scotland? How could this man be expected to comprehend that I was a one man rainbow coalition? I wouldn’t even try to explain to this man that my genes hold the codes for red hair, green eyes, black skin, thin noses, thick lips… To this man, one of my family reunions would look like a United Nations session. African, Indian, European.
I’ve always known that I didn’t fit in the little mental boxes that some people try to put me in. I know that I can make people uncomfortable because of my ties to different races and cultures. I’ve heard and seen all types of shit in this world, but this was a first. I’ve never, before or since, been accused of denying my Puerto Rican or Dominican heritage.
About the author: David Pierce Newell was born in New York City to a Jamaican mother and American father. He lived in Jamaica and Paris before making his way to Nice, France.