I have resigned myself to the fact that no one will ever get my ethnicity right.

I don’t hold it against anyone. No one is purposely being racist. It’s just a simple fact of life.

Let’s take into consideration the facts about myself:

  • I have black hair.
  • I have dark skin.
  • I have a Spanish last name.
  • I grew up in Texas.
  • I have a pretty thorough command of the Spanish language.
  • My parents are immigrants.

So that all points to…CORRECT! Mexican. Or at least some kind of Latino. But the Texas part sort of narrows it down to Mexican.

And like I said, it doesn’t bother me. All of those factors combined make it confusing, so I have a lot of patience and understanding for the fact that people don’t automatically know that I’m Filipino. The only part that gets awkward is having to correct their assumptions.

Case in point: Yesterday I went to Mass. Last week this woman who sat alone in the front row invited me to sit with her, so I did. I sat with her and her elderly friend Doris and they were delightful. But when Doris introduced herself, she said,

I asked Sheila if she asked you, “Como se llama?” I’m not fluent in Spanish, but I do remember key phrases from high school.

I just nodded and smiled. I mean, what the hell was I supposed to say? This was the first time in weeks that Doris had been out of the hospital and been able to attend Mass in person. I wasn’t about to embarrass her because of her mistaken assumption.

So I let it slide.

I suppose I bring this up because it begs a greater question: How do I correct people about my ethnicity while managing to maintain any sort of social grace? Do I just let it go altogether? Like I said, it doesn’t bother me when people think I’m Mexican, so should I just assume that ethnicity for the rest of my relationship with them?

When I bring this up to fellow Filipinos, they become indignant because they think it’s because I’m ashamed of my ethnicity. That couldn’t be further from the truth. My parents raised me to be Filipino and proud, so I am. I am proud of being a strong, intelligent, Filipina woman.

But the truth of the matter is, my ethnicity isn’t the only facet about me. It’s not even the most important facet. Yeah, I’m Filipino, not Mexican. But that’s why I don’t mind when people get it wrong: Because my ethnicity doesn’t define me. Like how one’s sexuality doesn’t define a homosexual person. I am not my skin color.

Anyway. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m getting better at impersonating a Mexican.


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