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Monday, May 12, 2008

Gonzalez The Mighty Norwegian

When I tell people that I am part Mexican, there is little surprise. I have dark hair, brown eyes, and brown skin (I tan pretty easy).

And yet when I tell people that I am Norwegian, there is usually a snicker. It is the kind of snicker that one gets when they are intentionally saying something that is untrue for ironic effect. The truth is that I am not any more Mexican than I am Norwegian or German. Sure, I get it that my Danish and Czech is not so obvious as I have less Dane and Czech blood than the others. But because my name is Gonzalez and I have darker features than most really White people, it is humorous to many people when I say that I am more European than I am Mexican, even though to say anything else would be false.

I have learned how to blow off, roll with, or dodge just about any comment, snicker, or response (outside of that one violent response I may talk about in another post) that comes my way. I have been socialized through two generations on my fathers side of the family on how to be an attempted-White and from countless generations on my mother's side of the family on how to be White.

I am the Whitest Mexican there is. And yet there are these times when I feel like I am not afforded a category - White or Mexican. There is no Whitican or Mexiwhite. And furthermore, I do not want such words to be invented. They sound weird. The need for such words seems whiny and victimy to me. I guess there is a word called, Tex-Mex, but it refers to food and Texas. Anyway, I just want to say that I find it interesting how powerful the soical construction of cultural identity is.

My grandfather intentionally tried to eliminate all Mexican culture from his family. My father made no effect to bring any Mexican culture into my family of origin such that I thought I was White with an accidental Mexican surname. And still it is funny to people that I am Norgian.

Don' get me wrong, I laugh with them and don't let this cultural idenity thing act as the central operating princinple of my life. At the same time, even in the third generation of the Whitizination of the Gonzalez family, all it takes is one look at me and my name and all of the "effort" means nothing.

Can anyone relate? I would love to hear what you are thinking.

5 comments:

Greg Brooks said...

Dude, I can totally relate. People are always amazed when I tell them that I grew up in Tennessee, but I'm a University of Alabama fan. Some people get offended, if you can believe that. But it's part of my cultural heritage so I just say, Hey man, don't dismiss my cultural heritage. And also, Roll Tide. That shuts them up.

Is that anything like your experience? I feel like we're kindred spirits here.

MDAMAN said...

Same here.

When I tell people I'm Swedish/Norwegian/Danish no one is surprised.

BUT, when I say Screaming Yellow Zonkers are better than Fiddle Faddle, LOOK OUT!

I guess that's different.

Fajita said...

Oh yes, you feel me, borhters. :-)

Lonely Dissertator said...

I can totally relate! People mistake me for Korean or Japanese all the time!

Was that funny? It was meant to be funny.

By the way, I am surprised that you are Norgian. If you wanted another mix-term, may I suggest Whitexican.

More seriously, it's nice to know you a bit more beyond your skin color. I will no longer refer to you simply by your last name in the hallways lest I convey to you that I think of you only according to your last name. You are the WHOLE person. :-D

Lonely Dissertator said...

I can totally relate! People mistake me for Korean or Japanese all the time!

Was that funny? It was meant to be funny.

By the way, I am surprised that you are Norgian. If you wanted another mix-term, may I suggest Whitexican.

More seriously, it's nice to know you a bit more beyond your skin color. I will no longer refer to you simply by your last name in the hallways lest I convey to you that I think of you only according to your last name. You are the WHOLE person. :-D