When Asia and I sat down to discuss our publication and outline our vision ,we were as giddy as school girls at a sleep over! This entire launch has been an inspired journey toward something greater than myself. I’m especially honored to take it with her.
Inside me however, there was a pink elephant in the room. There has always been a pink elephant following me around. It is a question mark that has been floating above my head forever.
“What are you?”
It is always the first question I encounter in social settings, especially where alcohol and loose lips are involved.
“What are you?”
It is the pink elephant who insists on sitting in the middle of the room in spaces where people are too polite to ask but will dance around the topic dressed in a tutu of microaggression.
It is also a question mark in spaces where people can’t be sure if I’m safe one way or the other. So, I’m going to address the pink elephant and get it out the way now.
I am Puerto Rican. My ethnic and cultural roots began on the island. Our culture is influenced by Native (Taino), colonial (mostly Spanish), and African (in my personal case Mali but slaves were brought to the island from many countries in Africa) cultures, mostly African since slavery existed on the island for 400 years.
I am still researching my family tree but it goes quite a few generations back to Puerto Rico. My grandparents on both sides, were the first to leave it and come here to the States.
I’m a giant question mark and because colonizers don’t take very good records of marginalized brown people, I am not quite sure how I came together to make up what I am today. However, my genetic makeup, according to my ancestry test, is Greek/Native/African.
White people know I’m not Anglo, they usually assume Italian, if I wanted to agree I could and leave it at that and be accepted with all the privileges to match. As many LatinX people do because there is so much anti-blackness in our communities. At least 28% of Latinas voted for the Orange Menace, I guarantee they are all lighter skinned than me.
It doesn’t hurt me to admit that I have light skin privilege. It doesn’t hurt me to admit many LatinX take advantage of that privilege in a white supremacist world. I’m also cishetero so I have no issue being accepted as a person and no one ever challenges the validity of my family or my partnership.
I am also thin and everyone assumes I am healthy, including actual medical professionals so I am treated better by society as a whole and given opportunities not afforded to people who weigh more.
In a white supremacist’s world, my hair is the acceptable texture, my skin is the acceptable shade of brown, my shape is acceptable and in line with today’s euro-centric standards of beauty. If I put on the right makeup, I even have the exoticism corporate america loves to exploit. I say all of this to say…
Admitting that doesn’t make me less a Puerto Rican woman, less a woman of color, or less an advocate for marginalized people.
What it makes me is a powerful and unsuspecting accomplice. It affords me a larger platform that I can give over to people less privileged but, more qualified than me. It affords me the opportunity to push my agenda and brown girls are my agenda.
I acknowledge my privilege because doing so helps turn me into safe space for brown girls who don’t have it. I need to do that here too. So you see me drawing my line in the sand. Seeing my privilege helps me recognize it and call it out.
I can’t build a platform, speaking on matters of race, and the experiences of women of color and not speak on this. So I am calling out the pink elephant in the room because it isn’t going away because we ignore it.
I know there will be more conversation to be had around this and I am happy to have them. I am so grateful to have this space to explore these themes with you.
This is the pink elephant in the room for me and the conversation I have been avoiding from day one. No matter how many fucks I don’t seem to give, on some level your acceptance is important.
I want to be seen as real and trustworthy. I can’t do that if I am only telling part of my story. I am not just my hardships, my poverty, my otherness in white spaces among white women (which still happens), my lack of representation in every industry, and how little I am paid, but I am also my privilege too.
All of it is real and all of it makes up who I am and how I navigate the world.
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