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Brown on the inside, white on the out




They say

I remember holding your hand, brown against white.

Holding it so tight, so the waves of dirty looks and hushed giggles didn't wash my tiny body away.

They asked what a 'wet back' was doing with a little white girl.

They asked what it was like to have a dad that talked so funny.

They asked what it was like, to be brown on the inside and white on the out.

They asked things I didn't know the answers to. What was it like?


I thought it was the same as everyone else.

Until one day I realised that the other kids didn't have 'abuelas', they had Grandmas.

They didn't have a 'Tio', they had uncles.

They didn't dance every night to Spanish music with their brothers,

Or pray to 'Esupristo' in the morning before Escuela.

They didn't wear big hoops in middle school that their family passed down.

They didn't dress colorful in the winter air.

They didn't feel so deeply, sometimes, it seemed.

So. What was it like? To be a 'burrito'?


It was eating salsa at my cousin's wedding. It was having so many family members that I couldn't even keep up with their names but we hugged like our blood line depended on it when we saw each other.

It was waking up to tamales on Christmas morning. It was talking shit with your Mexican friends at school. It was getting drunk at a Quinceanera when you were 15.

It was watching Novellas until you fell asleep every night.


But it was also being lonely.

It was being called white by Mexicans, but not being able to go to your white friend's houses because their parents were scared of your dad.

It was getting mocked when your Spanish wasn't good enough. But shaping a new accent so the English speakers wouldn't make fun of the one you picked up from your dad as a kid.


It was ordering food in Spanish and being asked how you learned the language.

It was not knowing what box to check in the race section of standardised tests.

It was being told you were 'too mean' for a white girl.

It was either bleaching your hair or dying it darker so you could at least TRY to look like only one race.

It was explaining to everyone the complexity of your heritage and watching them roll their eyes. 'It's complicated.'


It was fighting off white men who call you 'exotic' and warding off brown ones who saw you as a white skin-ticket.


It was carefully treading on racial comments because white people can't say shit like that and getting called a 'Beaner' your whole life doesn't change it.


They say it won't affect you. But it does.

A life on your own. The feeling you get when you see a brown person being treated unfairly. Prejudice.

The frustration of being unable to comply with the rules they once gave you because rules don't really apply to mixed-kids.

Because my blood isn't just red.


It's also white and it's green.

It's dancing Reggaeton until your feet hurt to walk on. Till the sweat drips down your back and you can feel the heat of motion from the bodies all around you — That's when you know.


That even when they said it wouldn't affect you, because your skin is light;

It definitely, definitely did.




Topic tags: Amber Dauzat, poetry



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Existing comments

My sympathy. As a child without parents I too took a lot of criticism and missed out on going to other children's places to play. Tho "white" I received a lot of hurtful remarks for being "different."

Noeline Champion | 03 May 2018  

I have three adult children, two Eurasian born to me and their late father, one Asian adopted . We discovered much later that the son born to us was harrassed by other children for his darker skin whereas his assertive sister was not .The youngest too was a self assured lad and did not cop much trouble. All speak only English from childhood. They have friends and family from both backgrounds. and move freely between them. When my daughter was about six, I came across her explaining her appearance to another little girl , no doubt in answer to a question about her ethnicity, "So I am what you might call Eurasian." Most of their time has been spent in Europe and Australia.I hope they value both cultures and feel comfortable with their situation.

Mary Samara-Wickrama | 03 May 2018  

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