Friday, March 13, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

Surprise--I am Hispanic!

Maybe you gathered as much from the name Núñez, as it's not exactly Danish.  It's a Spanish surname that means son of Nuno. Of course, I'm not really the son of Nuno, but somebody was, way back when. And whatever DNA I've inherited from Nuno may be to blame for my dark skin, curly hair, freakishly long feet, and incomprehensible attraction to the coffee aisle at the supermarket (even if only for the smell, since I don't drink the stuff).

Well, I'm glad that's all cleared up. Phew.

The three experiences detailed below had me worried that maybe nobody knew.

1.  Once, during a casual conversation, someone explained to me that he refused to to sub-let his apartment to Hispanics, specifically Mexicans, because "you know how they are."  (Little voice inside my head:  Well, I suppose I do, since half my family is composed of them.)

2.  An acquaintance told me he wouldn't trust a Hispanic person to babysit his children.  (Little voice inside my head:  Do you trust me?)

3.  More recently, seeming well-wishers have cautioned me that speaking Spanish to Alex at home might make people identify him as Hispanic.  (Little voice inside my head: But he is part Hispanic.)

In every situation, I've been too stunned to respond or even acknowledge the comment.  The immediate sting of the comments is obvious, but the more significant damage comes later, when I ask why someone would feel comfortable saying these types of things to meDo I seem like the type of person that harbors racist sentiments?  Worse, do I seem like the type of Latina who thinks of herself as better than other Latina/os?   

Maybe a little late, and maybe to the wrong audience, but here's my response to those coments:  I don't think it should matter if you are a daughter or son of Gonzalo or a son or daughter of John, Peter, or Hans. We can thank them for blue eyes, curly hair, short stature, cankles, and freckles, and even our last names, but not for our characters.  I don't know if Nuno was trustworthy or not, or if he was a hard worker, or if he was a Casanova.  But I refuse to believe that his character, noble or otherwise, passed to me by virtue of our shared ethnicity.  Hispanics come in as many shades of virtue, honor, integrity, and kindness as Asians and Caucasians do.  Please do not prejudge me or anyone else based on skin color, native language, surname, stereotype, or any other quality outside of our control.

That's all I have to say about that (although I'd love to hear what you have to say).



  1. I think you need to be planning how to respond (how to put people in their place) -- especially for when Alex is old enough to understand. Humor + wit + a little bit of sharpness.

    Viva la Hispania! (or something ;)

  2. I never cease to be shocked - SHOCKED - that people still see the world this way. I guess the applicable advice is "laugh, because crying gives (you) a headache."

  3. I think it is very strange that someone would even think such things, let alone say them, let alone say them to YOU. I suppose I am not altogether surprised that there are some people who feel this way, though. I don't think we will ever eliminate the isms that enable people to look down on others for whatever reason.

    I do think that when people say such things they deserve to feel embarrassed. I don't think there would be anything wrong with saying aloud the things you thought to yourself and letting it turn into a discussion. The more calm and unaffected you remain, perhaps, the better (better = the more the offender's humiliation).

  4. Wow. I wonder if they go home and ask themselves, "Did I really say that to her?" or if they just don't care. Sorry.

  5. I [naively] like to think that people don't think that way--let alone say it out loud. I can help you come up with some retaliatory Scandinavian insults to throw around in the heart of the valley of "sens" and "sons" last names.

  6. Would you be shocked if I said I don't trust hispanics... :) I also LOVE the coffee aisle and have noticed I have an unnatural desire to watch people eat what I have cooked for them. I could tell you SEVERAL interesting things I have heard over the years, some from people who I consider good friends. It is distressing to think that such small mindedness still exists. But then again, this IS still Provo...

  7. Rachel4:50 PM

    Amen! Oh, and thanks for your post on my blog about sleeping babies. It's comforting to know that "sleep training" might not be for every kid or it may come in other fashions. That's given me comfort in my mothering attempts.

  8. Let that little voice in your head answer back--in Spanish. The beauty is they won't know what you're saying and they'll get the hint (hopefully) that you are Hispanic.

  9. Anonymous8:14 PM

    What! You are Mexican! I don't think I'll be able to trust you either after hiding that secret for so long! That is so Mexican of you!