“You don’t look Hispanic” is a phrase that has followed me around my entire life.
Every time I tell people that I am from Puerto Rico, perplexed looks cross their faces because they see a white blonde girl standing before them as opposed to a curvaceous, tan, dark-haired woman.
I can understand why they think this is how Hispanic people look like, though. Television series that have Hispanic representation always portray Latin characters with the same type of stereotypical appearance. But that’s the truly sad part about all of this. So many of us don’t look like the stereotype.
The fact that there is even a stereotypical “Latin appearance” baffles me because being Hispanic composes a person’s ethnic background, not a race. Ethnicity has nothing to do with appearance. Instead, it defines people who share the same language or similar cultures.
There is such a diversity of appearance in Latin American countries, and all those people belong in the same ethnic group, regardless of their race of skin color. Yet why do I keep getting the same old sentiment that I don’t look like I should?
Television, in particular, has a certain fascination with upholding these stereotypes, and although I am all for television becoming more diverse in matters of characters being more racially diverse, I also think representation of Latin characters is often heavily stereotypical.
As often happens with stereotypes, they help profile certain people as the sort of person the stereotype dictates.
So how does this affect me? It doesn’t. I am seen as a white girl until I open my mouth to say that I’m a Latin white girl. If I don’t say anything, nobody would know.
But it affects so many others. It affects my Hispanic friends who do fall under this stereotyped appearance and countless other people who might not even be Hispanic but fall into this perceived category.
Then what happens? They get discriminated against on the basis of their ethnicity when, in fact, they’re being discriminated because of their appearance.
Once, somebody told me that I wasn’t like other Hispanics because I didn’t look like them. I was more educated and “not one of the ‘bad Hispanics.’”
Nobody has ever looked at me and said something about my ethnicity. And why would they? Ethnicity isn’t a thing you should be able to tell when you look at somebody. It encompasses so many different people that others shouldn’t be able to tell who is and who isn’t Hispanic. Of course, there are trends, but that doesn’t mean those represent all or even the majority.
So why all this emphasis on these Latinos who look a certain way and are ‘bad Hispanics’? It seems to me this isn’t discrimination against a ethnicity because they make excuses for people who don’t fit the stereotype.
It’s not fair, and not even rational, that the color of hair or skin determines whether you consider a person an exception to a stereotype or not.