I feel like for a big portion of my life I’ve suffered from identity issues and the feeling of not fitting in or being accepted. I grew up in the Bronx around Jamaicans, Haitians, Dominicans, and African Americans. For us we just knew, even as kids, that although our cultures had some differences our roots were the same. It wasn’t until I moved to Florida that my skin, hair, and race became a clear issue. That comfort of being accepted as who I was deep down without any explanation started to melt away. I either wasn’t Black enough or White enough. I didn’t realize there were just two distinctive categories or that there were gatekeepers to tell me what I was.
I’ve been told to straighten my hair because my curls intimidated clients. To stay out of the sun because it would make me look darker. Not to have children with a Black man because I’d mess up “our” race. That last one was something I heard a lot and is still tossed around in Puerto Rican homes.
Slavery wasn't abolished in Puerto Rico until March 22, 1873. There had been many slave revolts but it wasn't until the Grito de Lares
that it made a difference. Although slavery was abolished, it was not emancipated and the slaves had to buy their own freedom, at whatever price set by their last masters. In the early 1900's Puerto Ricans in the US went through a "whitening" process and more of them selected "white" on the census. "It may have been that it was popularly thought it would be easier to advance economically and socially with the US if one were "white".(Source: Wikipedia) In a way Puerto Rico had suffered it's own identity crisis.
As I approach my 40th birthday next month, I’m done having people telling me who I am! What I should do! Who I should be! I’m also done hiding and feeling ashamed in my “Not Enough” thoughts. I’m done feeling like I always have to prove myself to one person or another. I know there is a little girl out there today being told these same things and I want her to be proud of her roots, her bloodline and her history. Find your life's purpose and live it.
Live authentically and don’t allow others to tell your story because you don’t fit their stereotypical box.
Love & Light