For a little over a week, our screens have been ransacked with violence. Day by day, it got worse to the point where I had to turn them off, switch the channel, deactivate social media accounts to give myself the chance to breathe. Truth be told, it’s so very easy for me to take on others’ emotions and pain and I was overwhelmed. Seeing people being brutally attacked for the color of their skin. I thought we were better than this. How could this be the world I was living in? It wasn’t too long after that I was contacted about this issue. When I was approached to collect personal experiences from volunteers within our organization, I was honored since this is such an unprecedented time.
As the hours went on, I was approached more and more; colleagues checking in with me, how I feel about what’s going on with the Black Lives Matter movement, and if it’s a sensitive subject. And I was confused. “Why would I feel any type of way?” Then someone outright asked how I felt given that I am a person of color. My initial thought was, “I’m a person of color??” I never see race or color when speaking to another human being, not until it’s a behavior. “Person of color” was not in my vernacular.
I looked down at my arm and the blatant answer is yes, I am. My skin is darker than my neighbors, my coworkers, and the majority of the people I went to school with, even my closest friends. Being a person of color was not in my identity. My second thought was, “but I’m not black. I’m Dominican from both parents. I consider myself Hispanic.” That’s my identity. I realize how ignorant that sounds. However, I was raised to be proud of the little country in the Caribbean that quietly floats next to Haiti in that crystal clear, warm water. If anything, I was neutral because I don’t fit in with either side. I’m a minority of being a Hispanic female. The only discrimination I’ve ever faced was for being fat. I was still confused but more in pain as to what was happening so of course, I was willing to do what was asked of me.
People continued to reach out to me and the subject weighed heavy on my mind. I asked my mom during dinner, “Mom, are we people of color?” and she didn’t have an answer because she didn’t know. This entire movement has us all questioning who and what we are. After my thoughts mutated to: “this isn’t my fight,” which quickly made me realize I was making my way toward the non-racist sentiment.
As the anger grew in the virtual environment, I took a step back and re-evaluated what I knew: I am a proud Hispanic woman. So let me dissect that. Dominican Republic people are made up of Spaniards who mated with the indigenous peoples of Hispaniola and black slaves the Spaniards brought with them. If I dive far enough into my ancestry, I am of African descent. Yes, when I fill out government forms and I am asked for my race, I check off Black. Moreover, there’s a direct line on my father’s side, as close as a great-grandparent or great-great grandparent whose last name is proudly Clark. Just because I speak Spanish and my culture has evolved into different something, does that negate my blackness? Does that make me more Hispanic and less Black? No, not at all.
Racism is a plague. Meaning it is not a United States issue. No, it’s a global issue, we’re just the ones on fire. I’m fortunate enough to have not been discriminated against for the color of my skin or to have lost a loved one for that reason either but there are so many who unjustly have. So, through self-discovery, though I never thought of myself as a person of color, I am. When I horridly and wrongly thought the Black Lives Matter movement is not my fight, it is. As a person of color, it is my fight. As a person of African descent, it is my fight. As a human being, it is my fight. If you’re a human being, it may not be necessarily your fight, but we have a responsibility to stand beside them and say, “I’ll fight with you for you.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis, start a chat with one of our trained volunteers here.