I don’t look like my parents. After switching high schools in tenth grade, new teachers who were just meeting my parents for the first time assumed it was so obvious that I was adopted that they would ask how old I had been when my parents acquired me. If I stand directly between them, as shown above, it’s more apparent because you can pinpoint how in-between all my features are. However, most people just assume that I am in some adoption or stepparent situation or that I’m actually albino (I get it more than you’d think).
This post is partially inspired by Lovelyish contributor Jodie’s “Tanning From A Pale Person’s POV” earlier today. I, too, remember being teased all through middle school (i.e. the worst days of most of our early lives) about how I resembled a ghost, how I appeared albino, how I looked like a Doc from Back to the Future… actually, that last one was by me–my teasers didn’t have good taste in movies. There were so many times where girls in gym class would put their legs or arms next to mine for comparison and gleefully exclaim, “Oh my god, I thought I was pale but look at you.” I would laugh along, but this felt considerably less victorious to me.
I’m naturally incredibly pale. I say “incredibly” because I really am one of the palest people I’ve ever seen in real life. In fact, the picture above is me looking tan–weird, right? But the pale thing wouldn’t bother me whatsoever if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m half Hispanic. In fact, I’m second generation American.
My father and his family immigrated here from Peru over the course of the seventies because my grandfather worked for NASA, most of them speaking just a small amount of English. My dad as well as his siblings worked night shifts all throughout their high school years in order to support the family, something I can’t imagine doing considering my high school job primarily supported my H&M habit. At some point, he attended one of the most dangerous high schools in America at the time–seriously, a Morgan Freeman movie was made about it–and fought very hard not to be discriminated against. Not that many people aren’t still incredibly racist against Hispanics in America but, uh, I won’t get started on that rant.
My mother, on the other hand, is what I typically refer to as “Mayflower white.” Granted, I have no idea what ship my great-great-etc. grandparents rolled in on, but I know that there is at least one town in Maine founded by my ancestors on her side, which is pretty fantastic. I am really proud to come from two families who are extremely strong, hard-working and diverse. My whole life, I’ve been really proud to say that I’m Peruvian/English/Chilean.
The only problem is that often times, people don’t believe me.
It shouldn’t matter to me that there are lots of people who don’t believe that a pale person can come from a background other than Scandinavian, but for goodness’ sake, my last name is Escobar–would I really change my name to make some lie more convincing? Of course, people have their own connotations about my last name, but that’s beside the point… Nevertheless, it is a bit frustrating because literally everyone else on my father’s side, all of my cousins (even the ones who also have one white parent) look significantly “more Hispanic” than I do: they’re all tan with brown eyes, dark brown hair, smooth skin while I have extremely pale skin, light blue eyes, some freckles and my hair is naturally much lighter than theirs.
To be fair, I also don’t look anything like anybody on my mother’s side–I’m paler than all of them, too and have an entirely different bone structure–but for some reason, that doesn’t bother me as much because I don’t stick out in every group photo the way I do with my dad’s family. I know everyone sees me as a family member, but it’s frustrating to practically glow because I’m so ridiculously light. It doesn’t help that I occasionally get called “gringa” which, just like in middle school, I giggle at but it still bothers me a bit.
For the past four years, I lived in Southern California and most (if not all) of my friends are tanner than I am. Regardless of sunshine, I don’t burn and I don’t tan–I just stay this ivory color all year round. I never have to change my foundation, which is always the lightest of every brand. But I’m still Hispanic, regardless of the fact that most other people with similar backgrounds I’ve met are much darker than I am. In fact, most people with wholly “white” parents are darker than me, too. Case in point: my spring break.
However, the good thing about all this is that it has long made me think about the idea of race and it’s effect on me. We cling to race, despite the fact that there is genetically no such thing, and utilize it to establish our individual identities. Knowing that I have several different countries and continents (I’m also a bit Chinese) in my background, yet also being aware that my appearance would say otherwise, has forced me to see how silly it is to assume that anybody from anywhere is “supposed” to look a certain way. Sure, there are characteristics that are more prevalent in certain countries and continents, but those little boxes we check when applying for college or jobs or on surveys are just weird little labels that don’t make that much sense to me anymore. You can be “Asian” without having almond-shaped eyes, “African” without having dark skin and “Hispanic” without being tan.
This all, of course, is by no means to say that racism doesn’t exist–sadly, bigotry is both extremely real and extremely widespread. There are still those who not only 100% devote themselves to the idea of race, but also think believe that their own is the superior “one.” I mean, seriously, look at this ridiculous list that includes a huge number of racist groups, many of whom believe that interracial marriage and children are still somehow threatening their way of life.
However, mixed-race beauty is gaining momentum. No longer is it strange to hear that a celebrity is half-something and half-something else. We see girls like Devon Aoki (who is Japanese, German and English) with her bronze skin, almond eyes and adorable freckles–all features that people once thought were mutually exclusive to specific ethnic groups. Many famous entertainers these days are multicultural, such as Kid Cudi (half Mexican), Aubrey Plaza (half Puerto-Rican), Naomi Campbell (quarter Chinese) and Nicki Minaj (half Indo-Asian).
Sure, I may not have the golden skin tone that the rest of my paternal extended family has, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the same background. Nowadays, we can celebrate all sorts of appearances from all cultures and countries, regardless of whether or not they fit our idea of what people with certain backgrounds are “supposed” to look like.
So, Lovelies — what do you think: is beauty diversifying? Is racism still prevalent in both politics and popular culture? Should I wear some more effing bronzer? Tell us your thoughts!