While sitting in the sun by my cousin’s pool in Acapulco, I thought furthermore why I’m so obsessed with tanning. I don’t like tanning beds, but I love to nap in the sun then cool off in the water. I find it reasonable to tan when I wish to blend in with natives of certain countries and avoid standing out as a naive American tourist. However, it is not valid to tan so I can be excused from the label of ‘white girl.’ Desiring to be brown is rooted in insecurities of being white. The optimistic view of tanning has hidden deep wounds I never knew lied in my heart.
1. To Fit In
This is where it all began. Every Christmas gathering with my Mexican family, some of them never fail to mention how pale is ugly and brown beautiful. I caught onto this at age 11 in my house in Texas. Because these family members indirectly hurt my feelings, I said things I didn’t mean such as, “Mexicans are ugly” to get back at them. I remember being excited to receive my brown skin after a long day at the pool, only to hear one of my cousins say, “it’s orange, not brown.” No matter how much Spanish I learned, no matter how much I love Mexican cuisine, and no matter how much the sun brought out the Latina in me, I could never impress them. It seemed like strangers and friends appreciated my multiethnic look more than my family. Accepted or unaccepted, I will always be the white girl.
To be fair, I have fond memories of the days spent with Mamita’s side of the family: sharing the traditions, stories, and adventures will never cease to be a part of me. I love them very much, and I know they love me. Families are not perfect, but I forgive every way in which they (some) have made me feel left out. I do not have to bake in the sun for my family to love me more. At my cousin’s pool, I felt defeated discovering the sad truth of why I was cooking myself in the first place. It may be the last time I will.
2. To Be Unique
Before BLM, Trump’s campaign, and white privelege awareness, I tanned to show off my multiethnic self, in spite of the fact that the Mexican American mix (mestizo) is common. For me, my occasional brown skin and caucasian features are a symbol of multiculturalism I carry proudly. I happen to think people are approaching me in another language other than English is a compliment. If friends or acquaintances mistake me for another ethnicity, I would ask what lead to their guesses. Main Answer? My brownish (more like olive) skin. It’s almost a competition to see who is the most multiethnic. The more these compliments came in, the more I began to think that being a white person is anything but interesting.
Looking back, I realize I may have hurt some people by making them feel ordinary and unattractive. To my white friends: I am very sorry if I have planted a seed of low self-esteem based on your inability to tan or Anglo-heritage. Having European immigrant parents from 12 generations ago (approximately) doesn’t make you less unique than current immigrants from other parts of the world. White Americans can appreciate his/her heritage while learning from the mistakes of their ancestors. Feel special for what you can learn and contribute to your community, country, and the world, not your ethnicity.
3. Avoiding The White Girl Stereotype
Since awareness on white privilege, BLM, and the Trump’s campaign took off, I identify myself as a minority as much as possible with the 50% of my Mexican blood. I don’t want to identify as a racist based on the other 50% of my blood. Articles on white privilege were never meant to encourage white people to look like minorities, yet this what I got out of it. My unconscious self (now conscious) wants a tan to escape the white girl stereotype, even though my Anglo-Saxon name gives it away.
Admitting this can cause my friends of color a lot of frustration. I don’t blame them for it. Being a person of color comes with challenges I will never have to face. Keeping the public informed and the justice system accountable will make a change, not my summer tan. Being a white girl is ok as long as she opens her mind to the world beyond hers; I’m convinced this is what white privilege awareness is trying to do. In this case, I apologize for my shallow response to such movements I hope will make a positive difference in our country. I long to see the justice system and civil life treat black people with the same respect as white people; I don’t want white privilege to exist.
This topic consumes my day-to-day conversations. Family and friends are probably weary of my complaints about being pale or bragging about my tan. This is why tanning will no longer be a priority in my life. I made my decision after leaving my cousin’s neighborhood pool. If I happen to soak in the sun while swimming or playing sports, great! If not, it doesn’t make me less than who I am. I will be part Mexican no matter how pale. I will be part white no matter how brown. Although being mixed has its advantages, it has its insecurities in feeling like I don’t entirely belong to any culture. As a Christian, my security is found in being a child of God. Second, I know my Mexican family loves me regardless of being a Gringa. Third, Ethnicity does not determine whether or not someone is cultured (I have met white people who are more cultured than non-white people). That said, goodbye insecurity, hello contentment!