My Experience as a Black European
I am opposition
I am Aquarius and I am Leo
I am a social butterfly and I am an anxiety ridden introvert
I am emotion and I am logic
I am Spanish and I am Black
I am opposition
My struggle to understand who I was didn't really start until I began school. Up until then, I lived the life my mother allowed me to live, which was free and unbound.
We would spend months and months at a time in Spain, which is where my mother is from, and I was thoroughly enriched in Spanish culture. I ate calamari doused in its own ink, I danced flamenco, and began cussing at age four like a true European.
When we were back in America, my life was enriched with African American culture. My father wasn't one to stick around, but I will always commend my mother for the amazing job she did in his absence. I was raised listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Michael Jackson, and Nina Simone, I was enrolled in hip hop dance classes, and my mother took me to my Jamaican friend's house monthly so her mom could braid my hair into cornrows.
I grew up understanding I was a mix of two very different races. Two races that weren't really known to be mixed together.
My Spanish is not to be confused with Latino; I'm not considered part of the Afro Hispanic community. My Spanish is the origin of Spanish. My Spanish is Spain. My Spanish is European.
My Spanish also happens to be the one responsible for the genocide of the indigenous Americans, claiming ownership to an America that was built on the backs of African slaves. (God, I'm so sorry about that, we honestly hate Christopher Columbus too please forgive us.)
But nonetheless, I loved both parts of me and loved that I was able to call both cultures my own. I was constantly reminded by my family how beautiful I was, and how lucky I was to have such a mix.
However, being sheltered by people who loved me contributed much to my detriment when I wasn't greeted accordingly entering middle school (I mean....... like where?? was my red carpet???). I was friendless, completely undesired by any and all males (partially because I was at least a head taller than them), and was made fun of for my bushy eyebrows and my frizzy hair.
What really hurts 21-year-old Jazmin is that 12-year-old Jazmin didn't make any friends until she permed her hair.
Yeah. That's all it took.
After crying and crying to my mother that I was unhappy and I just wanted to have straight hair like hers, she finally decided to let me get a relaxer. The chemicals turned my tangled and wild tresses into a straight, thick brown mane that went all the way down to my lower back.
I came to school the next day and was greeted as if I was a new student. People who I had held doors open for the entire year were introducing themselves to me as if they had never met me.
I felt seen again.
I felt beautiful again.
My environment conditioned me to look more and more like the Eurocentric standards that were so glorified in American Culture, even though I was nothing but praised by my European family for being black.
And I think this marks the beginning of my identity crisis.
The issue that most of the biracial or mulatto community can relate on is being pressured to "pick a side" and choose which part of them they would like to identify as. This was something I never really had to deal with directly until I started high school.
My freshman year I attended a private catholic school that was predominately Hispanic. Due to my middle school PTSD, I was determined to make friends and not resort to my reclusive comfort zone.
The most popular girls were all Colombian and Dominican, with long straight hair and Michael Kors watches. I wanted to be liked by them, and so I suppressed my blackness. I don't think I consciously knew what I was doing at the time, I just knew that it worked.
I've never really felt connected to Hispanic culture because, well, I wasn't Hispanic. But no one in America really cares to know the difference, so I spoke the language and I played the part. I flat ironed my hair every week, I sang along to Prince Royce songs, and they loved me. I was invited to every party, every sleepover, and of course every quinceañera.
I transferred my sophomore year of high school to a charter school with a more substantial African American demographic, as well as Hispanics and whites, and finally felt like I could breathe.
As I started settling into what I thought was my authentic self, I decided to try out for the step team, alongside most of my black friends. But whenever I excitedly shared with anyone I was considering joining, I was told something along the lines of "Isn't that for black girls?" "You're not black enough to be on the step team..."
And that was the first time I asked myself
Am I not black enough?
Am I not black enough to join the step team?
Am I not black enough say nigga?
Am I not black enough to wear a black lives matter shirt?
Am I not black enough to tweet about police brutality?
Am I not black enough to stand up for Trayvon Martin?
Am I not black enough?
Was I selfish to want to be black enough? I wasn't put into the same danger my darkskin brothers and sisters were put in. I wasn't ridiculed and ostracized the way my darkskin brothers and sisters were. In fact, the other half of me was historically responsible for a lot of the trauma African Americans still experience. I was very much aware of the privilege that came with my lightskin complexion, and I wondered if that meant that maybe I just didn't deserve to be considered black enough.
Regrettably, I let the judgement of my peers stop me from trying out, and I watched from the stands every pep rally as my best friends stomped and performed in pure black girl magic.
It's an alienating feeling not knowing who to connect to.
There just wasn't a category I fit in. I was too black for the white boys I liked. I felt not black enough for the black friends I had. I felt different than the Hispanics I tried to befriend. I felt insufficient.
I wish I had a freeing moment; the day I woke up and realized how foolish it is to have gotten so lost in labels. But I didn't.
It took a long time and a lot of personal growth to get where I am today, though I must say graduating high school sure did help. Graduating meant being able to reinvent myself, without the input of others because honestly no in college even has the time to give a fuck.
I spent time alone, time with people I love, I explored, I tried, I failed, I succeeded, and I fell in love with myself again. I learned that it was the people and environment around me that made me question my own identity, when the only opinion that truly mattered was my own. I learned the vital lesson that you really have no control over how others perceive you, and you shouldn't care to.
I love soul food and I love paella. I love DMX and I love Calle 13. I love The Boondocks and I love Cuentame Como Paso.
But most importantly, I love laughter. I love kindness. I love watching Bravo with my mom and 10AM bike rides. I love what life offers universally.
If there is anything that my journey to self-acceptance has taught me, it's that the mixture of cultures should be celebrated, and never tainted with division.
And that self-definition should come from yourself and yourself only.
And it should be shaped by how much love you pour into this world, and not the curl pattern of your hair.
I am me
I am a Black girl
I am a Spanish girl
I am mixed
I am me.