What do you want me to say? I’m American. My family’s American. We have been for hundreds of years. But no one believes me.
Growing up in Antwerp as the daughter of a Jewish mother and a Muslim-born Senegalese father, I was aware of being Jewish. My mother took me to her side of the family for holidays, she taught me Hebrew songs, and we went to the synagogue once in a while. But I was more aware that my skin tone was brown. Other children made sure I knew. They made racist remarks and teased me.
Ignoring my outstretched hand, with money in it, he leaned over the counter coming closer to me 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!"
His paper skin reflected off my grandmother’s dark dark complexion. His head was a mound of sleek red waves, hers a thick black halo. Oil and water. Black and white. They were not expected to merge.
There can exist a great schism between who you are, and what others think you are. To the people who questioned me, it didn’t matter what I really was, or even what I thought I was; all that mattered was what they perceived me to be. Since my answer often cradled two or more categories, it was deemed incorrect, and the person would classify me in whichever bucket satisfied their preference.