Dominant Influences of My Cultural Shaping Part 3: My Racial Identity Formation
My process in racial identity development was not fully clear as I grew up, there might
have been some aspects that were unknown, such as, I was not consciously aware of my
Spaniard heritage. I blended the Mexican and Spaniard cultures into one. I grew up loving
flamenco and it is still a favorite dance and music genre, but I used to think it was just Mexican.
I however, was very aware that I was different since the age of five years old because my mom’s boyfriend would make distinctions between us and others (This is the way in which most of us learn that we have a racial/ethnic identity. It’s pointed out.). I was aware I am Mexican because there was so much pride in the community. Everyone expressed it and it was a big deal, but I never really felt that pride. Maybe because I was being abused by a Mexican man and there was no pride in that.
I was about ten years old when my mom and my older sister told me I was partially Spanish. My sister said my biological father’s parents were Spaniards. My sister went on to say how white like a chicken my father’s sister is and how tall and handsome my father is. She said he has light brown eyes like honey. She also told me that my last name “Barajas” is one-hundred percent Spaniard and I should be proud. I took some pride in this because no one who was Spaniard was abusing me (My sisters helped see the good in my ethnic identity).
On the other hand, I began to take hold of my American experience when I entered college. I began to understand that I was reaping from the American benefit.
The American benefit is as follows or at least my experience has been: we can take when we want, what we want, and if we can’t we will see a way to.
I began to understand that I have freedom as a caramel colored woman. I began to appreciate that I have the freedom to learn, to think, and to say whatever I want. I also realized that I could manipulate the system to my favor. I can sometimes be “white” and other times I can be a “colored” woman. I believe this comes from feeling oppressed, but I’m currently trying to understand if the feeling of oppression comes from within my own people, or the racial elite, or maybe both (Now, I know, it’s both with biracial/bicultural people; having feelings of oppression and feelings of advantage, and it is good to acknowledge both).