A branch of the WFU School of Divinity keeping you informed
If you were to walk down the street in New York City, amidst the flashing lights and the bustle of big city life, you would see a city filled with people from all around the world. Metropolitan areas like NYC are imbued with a cultural diversity that makes my heart sing. A short ferry ride away is Ellis Island where so much of my ethnic heritage emanates.
When the question of racial identity is asked, I find myself in a strange position. You see, I’m what my mother jokingly refers to as the League of Nations. Racially speaking, I am bi-racial: both Hispanic and Caucasian. However if you were to ask what nationality I am, the answer gets a bit trickier. The four most common nationalities in my blood are Puerto-Rican and Norwegian (on my mother’s side) and Italian and Scottish (on my father’s side) with at least five others sprinkled in the mix. The beautiful side of this fact is that there is a great deal of cultural richness to my history; the downside is that I sometimes have trouble identifying with any of them.
When I took my first Intercultural Development Inventory assessment last spring I learned that what was keeping me in the minimalization category was not necessarily hang-ups I had about diversity in other people, but rather within myself. I most frequently identify with my Hispanic heritage but I do not look Hispanic. Too many times in my adolescence when I would tell a friend that I was Puerto-Rican, instead of getting questions about what that was like, I would get corrected. “You don’t look Hispanic” or worse, “You’re not Hispanic. Stop lying!” It was as if someone calling me out for not looking the part would make all the Thanksgiving Dinners of Arroz con Gandules and Pernil disappear and I would be forced to tell some sort of alternative story.
I realized that I had a much more difficult time handling the diversity within myself than the diversity around me. I ended up connecting to my Hispanic roots through dance. About four years ago I used to compete in Ballroom and Latin Dance and even appeared for the pre-show of the Greensboro “Dancing with the Stars” Tour in January, 2009. I especially love Cha-Cha and a host of other Latin dances I’ve learned since my competition days. The combination of the music and dancing touches my soul in ways that little else does. When I dance I feel Hispanic and no one can tell me otherwise.
When conversations about race come up I still struggle to figure out where I fit in, but, as I continue to learn and grow to better understand what it means to live the League of Nations, I am slowly learning to appreciate diversity not just in those around me but within me as well.