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March 23, 2021

“You’re not Dark Enough to be Mexican”: How I’m Healing from Racial Imposter Syndrome.

I thought I was done with the comments because we live in a new world—a world that is becoming more awake and aware.

But the hits keep on coming.

“You’re not Mexican!”

Growing up, I was told this for the following reasons:

You’re not dark enough.

“You talk white.”

“You don’t have any street smarts.”

“You’re not fluent in Spanish.”

And on the opposing side, I’ve also been told:

“Do you even speak English?”

“You’re too dark to be white.”

“Stop speaking Spanish.” 

“You’re half good because you’re half white.”

I wasn’t even able to make friends in my elementary school because they all thought I was too dark.

Honestly, the list could go on and on.

Racial imposter syndrome:

1. A feeling of self-doubt or fakeness where a multiracial or mixed race person does not believe they belong to any of their racial identities.

2. A feeling of self-doubt or fakeness where one’s internal racial identity does not match with others’ perception of their racial identity.

At the age of 28, it continues. Most recently, someone told me I wasn’t Mexican because, according to them, I’m not “dark enough.” I identify as Mexican because I grew up with my father’s side of the family, who are Mexican, and not my mother’s side, who are white.

The Mexican part of me is all I know.

But what does it mean to be Mexican? Is it not the food I grew up with? Is it not understanding the language? Is being Mexican not having a Quinceañera, or growing up with the music and culture? Could it be my dad teaching me how to make tamales and menudo the way my abuela taught him?

In my world, being Mexican is all those things as well as the not-so-great things. For example, being stopped by the police with my dad because they thought we kidnapped my little sister, who is lighter than us. Or having to show my ID while walking on the side of the road on my way to school to prove to the police officers that I am an American citizen.

No, please don’t let it be those things that make up the rules for someone to be Mexican. Because I feel fortunate to know my family and where I came from, especially when some don’t. And I feel privileged to have a family who could afford to give me a Quinceañera and share their love of music and culture, especially when some cannot.

Instead, let my identity be guided by the blood that runs through my veins—my ancestors blood. Let that be my connection and joy.

I am no longer willing to let anyone make me feel disconnected from or ashamed of my truth. Nor will I feel a need to justify my race and lived experiences or compare myself to others to determine how Mexican I am. Other people’s insecurities are theirs to keep, but I will no longer be ruled by their criteria of what it means to be Mexican—to be me.


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Ayla Perez  |  Contribution: 1,055

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