I'm A Biracial Asian-American Latina. Stop Trying To Put Me In A Racial Box.

Photo: Angelique
I'm A Biracial Asian American Latina, Stop Trying To Put Me In a Box

Growing up as an Asian-American Latina was both confusing and wonderful for me.

I got to live the best of both worlds and be a part of two different cultures.

It was always amazing seeing the stark differences between Filipino culture and Puerto Rican culture. 

RELATED: How My Trip Back Home To Puerto Rico Empowered Me To Embrace Being Latina

On my block in the Bronx, you could see kids playing near the fire hydrant spewing tons of water out onto the streets. There was also salsa music playing loudly from the bodega at the end of the block. When you got closer to the bodega, you could smell the fresh scents of freshly cooked empanadas. 

On rainy days or days where I was sick, my mother would always cook arroz caldo, a traditional Filipino rice and chicken soup dish. It always made me feel better and made me feel at home.

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On other days, my abuela would make Asopao de Pollo, which became my favorite dish of hers. 

However, being biracial wasn’t always easy.

When I was growing up in school, I couldn’t hang out with the Asian kids cause I didn’t look “Asian enough” and I couldn’t hang with the Latin kids because I didn’t speak Spanish. It was truly hard to make friends as a teenager and find acceptance in my communities.

People were always confused by what I looked like. Some days I was “that Spanish girl,” and others times I was simply put in the white box because I was light-skinned. 

How I was perceived in the world was sometimes very different from how I was raised and how I identified. 

In my mind, I was both an Asian-American and a Latina and I loved it. But that didn’t always translate to other people.  

It wasn’t until I reached middle school that I noticed the tension between the Black and white community, particularly at my school.

My school was predominantly Black, but the teachers were predominantly white. Growing up, we didn’t have discussions about race and identity, so if you weren’t Black, you were automatically white. There was no room to be in the middle.

The way we're always taught to see race has always been through a black and white lens. There's never any room to be a mix of things, or anything else. 

Because Asian-American and Latinx history is not taught in school, people don't realize that racial diversity exists, and that so many brown people have occupied a space in history. Oftentimes, they are the "in betweeners,"  if they are acknowledged at all.

The Young Activist Toolkit defines race as, “a socially constructed concept not having any bearing in genetics, but heavily impacting one’s societal positioning and life outcomes”. 

Between races, there is definitely a massive difference in life outcomes, well-being, lived experiences etc … and that most definitely must be understood if we truly want to find liberation. 

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that as a light skinned AAPI Latina, I experience privilege. 

But I believe that at the same time, we must always embrace racial diversity and remember that race goes further than just Black and White. 

Maybe it's time we think about race as a spectrum instead of a solid Black or White lens. 

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Angelique Beluso is a sex educator and writer who covers feminism, pop culture and relationship topics. Follow her @AngeliqueBeluso.