This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this topic, nor will it be the last. The fact is, the story line keeps changing with the prevailing winds of time, so I can’t say with any certainty that my self-identity will ever align 100% with how the world views me. But I digress.

I grew up as a white kid in a middle-class suburb of New York City. There were three Nassau County cops on our block, including my Dad. I felt safe. I blended in.

I was, however, different. I got good grades. I was painfully shy. I sat alone on the school bus. In fourth grade, after being bullied for years, I remember kids pointing at me and taunting “Ah so, Mena!” So I asked my mother, “Am I Chinese?” She assured me that I was not. I was Spanish.

My mother spoke Spanish with her mother, but otherwise she didn’t speak Spanish in the home. My mother’s mother was born in Puerto Rico, and her father was born in the Philippines. I later learned that Spanish was my father’s first language, being born to two Puerto Rican parents recently transplanted to New York City, but I’ve never heard him speak a word of Spanish. So I grew up “Spanish”, but speaking only English.

Which makes me… brown?

Except that I’m inextricably white. I love punk rock, indie rock, jangle rock. I read and write haiku poetry. I brew beer. I’ve been working in the computer industry since 1983. I’ve spent nearly all of my life in suburbs. My hair is practically all white. My complexion is a whiter shade of pale. Who am I kidding?

Well, nobody. I’m just trying to figure out who I am.

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4 Responses to identity

  1. bajawannabe says:

    To me you are “Paul from Massachusetts” who dreams of retiring to Pescadero! At least that is how I refer to you when talking to John! You are my kindred spirit who shared in my journey and I am looking forward to sharing yours!

  2. If you’re from the US, well, unless you’re Native American, you are a mixture of things. Maybe we’re just whoever we say we are. That works for me.

  3. Pingback: white privilege | pauldavidmena

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