Brown Does Not Equal Mexican

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be offensive. I’m not offended by the experiences I’ve written about and I’m sharing them for your amusement. If you find any of this offensive or think I’m being racist, you don’t know me very well and should stop reading this blog. 

I’m not an attention seeker. I like being able to go places and do things without people paying me any mind. When I first made the decision to leave Hawaii for Colorado, people said things like, “Oh, no one will even notice you. You’re brown. They’ll think you’re Mexican.” Friends and family members assured me that I’d be able to blend in while in good ol’ Colorado Springs. Surely not as seamlessly as I blend in while in Hawaii, but they were positive my looks wouldn’t be a big deal. Boy, were they wrong.

People in the Springs definitely noticed me — and they made it obvious. I had a few awkward experiences with people blatantly staring — doing a full-on head-to-toe assessment — presumably trying to figure out what the hell I am. I didn’t feel discriminated against or anything; just highly uncomfortable.

In Louisville, KY, people still notice me. But they’re not rude about it. In fact, many of them are vocal and have no qualms about making comments or asking questions, which I love. So here, I bring you some of my favorite “ethnicity encounters,” as I like to call them. Enjoy!

  • An Uber driver kept looking at me through his rearview mirror. Finally, he asked where I was from. When I told him I was from Hawaii, he said, “I knew it! I knew you were Polynesian, but I didn’t know which kind. I mean, I knew you weren’t Samoan, ’cause Samoans are BIG.”
Polynesian Woman
This is what you get when you Google “Polynesian Woman.” (photo from https://www.facebook.com/teineaulelei88/)
  • I had a very similar experience with another Uber driver. But his response to me being from Hawaii was, “Yeah … OK. OK. You look like you’re from the ocean.” I took it as a compliment because obviously, he thought I was a mermaid.

 

  • Encounters with random people on the street are even better because I never see them coming. One day, I was walking my dog on our usual route when a man approached me with a very friendly “Hey!” He put his arms out as though he was going to hug me. I quickly stepped back and said, “Um. Hi.” He looked at me for a second, seemingly confused. I think we both realized at the same moment that he had mistaken me for someone else. “My bad,” he said. “I thought you was my homie from the dee argh.” Now I was confused. “The what?!” I asked. “The D.R.,” he replied. “Dominican Republic?” Oh.

 

  • Another time, I was walking along the same street and a woman got a little too close to my face, peering at me very intensely. “Are you Native American?” she asked. “Huh?” I replied. “Um. No.” She stared into my eyes and said, “My grandmother is Native American.” I wasn’t sure what that meant or how I was supposed to respond, so I just kept walking.

 

  • During my first conversation with a woman I’m still in contact with (but shall remain nameless), I asked what brought her to Louisville. She said that her husband got a job here, so their family relocated. Then she leaned across the table, looked me in the eye and said, “My husband is Mexican.”

 

Ha! I guess someone did think I was Mexican after all! 😆

 

 

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