In 6th Grade, I Prayed Every Day for God to Turn me into a Mexican

Then, I thought, I would have friends.

In retrospect, if god had turned me into an Indian, I think I would have just about died of joy. I fucking loved Indians. Alas, scouring my family tree didn’t reveal even one great-grandparent who could conceivably have been a Cherokee princess.*

For irrelevant reasons, I got sent to a ghetto school for sixth grade. I had no friends at this place. The whites wanted nothing to do with me. The blacks were openly hostile. A few of the Mexicans were friendly, but when it came to recess, they played with each other, not me. And besides, they didn’t speak English, and I didn’t know much Spanish.

If only I were Mexican, I thought. If only I woke up tomorrow with beautiful black hair and brown skin, then I could have friends and my classmates wouldn’t hit me.

Sadly, god was not forthcoming. I was stuck with whiteness, pale, useless, disgusting. Maggots are white, I thought.

For some reason my parents tacked up on the wall a portrait I drew of myself in art class. The portrait was supposed to express my misery. Every time I walked past it, I thought, Why do they have that thing on the wall? They never understood.

By middle school, I’d latched onto an identity that I could reasonably fake. It wasn’t really mine, but it was close. I at least had the right facial features, and was legally related (through adoption) to some people from that part of the world, if you went back enough generations. This became my obsession. I studied the language. I saved up my allowance to purchase traditional costumes. I read histories and novels; devoured the music. I talked endlessly about my heritage, no doubt annoying the everliving shit out of everyone around me. (No wonder no one liked me.) I even dyed my hair to look more like my ethnic ideal and lied about my eye color.

In retrospect, that was pretty dumb. But I was a kid, lonely and desperate. The people around me had culture, community, history, identity, pride. And I wanted that. I wanted something to call my own–my own music, my own history, my own country.

The place where I grew up was, obviously, not terribly pleasant or special to me. “Whiteness” is not a trait whites are taught to be proud of; “white music” or “white history” are not things that I was aware of as part of my heritage. On top of that, I came from a part of the country with a reputation for backwardness and bigotry, also not things I was proud of. Ethnically, I do not really have a particular European country I can claim as my own–I am not a majority English or French or German or Hungarian or anything.

As a statistical outlier in many ways, I don’t fit in terribly well with most people, except with other outliers like myself. (Finding such outliers is, I suppose, one of the purposes of this blog.) Not fitting in and what that does to your psyche is a thing I understand.

I have known other people like myself–other people who, at some point in their lives, desperately wanted to be part of an ethnic group they weren’t born in to, leading to what an outside observer would call, “talking all the damn time about it.” I suspect Dolezal experienced something similar. I suspect she just wanted to fit in with the people she loved being with and an identity to claim as her own. Our politics may differ, but I still feel really sorry for her.

Scratch a dozen whites, and I bet six of them secretly wish they could be something they aren’t. That’s why so many of them lie about being Irish, twisting one possibly Catholic grandparent or great-grandparent into a claim that they practically hopped off the land o’ blarney yesterday. No one wants to admit to being mostly English or German, even if they are.

I am struggling to come up with a neat and tidy conclusion to this post. I have obviously come to a point where I am comfortable admitting actual reality, and enough distance from the loneliness to think I was once kind of funny. I have some positive thoughts associated with various accomplishments of groups I have some kinship with. And I am an adult, busy with the everyday concerns of work, friends, family, etc.

But I look at my kids and wonder what sort of identity would make them happy.

 

*According to 23 and Me, I may actually have a sliver of Indian ancestry, but it’s pretty far back.

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12 thoughts on “In 6th Grade, I Prayed Every Day for God to Turn me into a Mexican

  1. Cherokee princess.*

    I find the idea that there is a Cherokee princess somewhere in one’s ancestry completely fascinating. It is pervasive in some groups and seems to transcend class and education (Warren). I have come to put it into the same category as wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, having a coat of arms, running around with others on the week-end while wearing a kilt or a Civil War uniform. Someone smart (*) should research this and tell us when and where the Cherokee princess idea got started and the mechanics of its spread.

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    • Good question!
      I think it has at least something to do with the Cherokee tribe being relatively large and having a relatively high admixture rate with blacks and whites, probably at least partially due to geographic location. (That is, they started out in Georgia and nearby areas, which were settled by non-Indians a lot earlier than, say, Alaska.) So if you’re going to find a tiny bit of Indian ancestry in your family tree, odds are slightly higher that it’ll be Cherokee.

      Also, on the scale of things, some tribes have had better reputations than others, and the Cherokee’s reputation is pretty good. They had their own alphabet (syllabary, I think,) newspapers/printing presses, and I have heard they even sent aid to the Irish during the potato famine, which I think represents a remarkable level of empathy and non-tribal behavior for the era. (I mean in comparison to all human groups.) I am sure they had their sins, like everyone, but considering the Aztecs had human sacrifice and some Texas tribes were reported to be cannibals, I suspect the Cherokee were (are) genuinely pretty decent, and thus a tribe people would want to claim to be part of.

      On the other hand, I’m pretty sure the Cherokee don’t have *princesses*, per se. So that end of thing has to be some sort of wishful white thinking or mistranslation. (Or maybe “princess” was just a term of endearment.)

      Now that I think about it, claiming to be an Indian is one way mixed white/black individuals managed to circumvent segregation/hypodecent laws/norms in the South back in the day. (Also, hiding out with the Indians was a way to escape slavery.) So some of those “Cherokee princesses” in people’s family trees may have actually been a quarter black, and their descendants naively passed down the lie. I have personally documented/pieced together at least one such case where a family tree that claimed Indian ancestry, but genetics showed Sub-Saharan.

      Some quick googling reveals/claims that, “a lot of men claimed their Indian wives were Cherokee when they actually belonged to another tribe because Cherokees were considered more “civilized” than other Indians by white Americans. So the “Cherokee princess” may have been an ordinary Lenape citizen, or something, and her husband was trying to make her new inlaws or neighbors more accepting of her.” (yup) and “Or, it’s possible that your ancestor may not have been American Indian at all, but rather African-American. One of our readers wrote us recently to tell us that her “Indian princess” ancestor had turned out to be African-American, and when she did more research into it, “Indian princess” and “Cherokee princess” were sometimes used in the South as somewhat derogatory terms for light-skinned mulatto women (similar to “high yellow.”)” http://www.native-languages.org/princess.htm

      I’ve never heard “Indian Princess” used derogatively, but maybe it’s been out of use for decades.

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      • I can see why Cherokee would be a preferred choice over say, Comanche. Along those lines, in the future we will have more “white” people with Aztec ancestry than Cherokee, if we don’t already.

        I discount the idea that much of it derives from people trying to hide black ancestry, although I am sure that there were a few instances. Some people who could did pass to the white side and never went back. I think that this applies to mixed race Indians as well as Blacks. Most mixed race individuals went the other way, either Indian or Black. I am at least a generation or more before your time. I actually lived in the bad old days and used separate entrances, water fountains, bathrooms, etc. There were no public trials on one’s ancestry. Some people might gossip about a non-cau in the woodpile but it was no big deal. Basically if you looked white and acted “white” there was no problem.

        I think that perhaps because of personal anecdotes and reading genealogy message boards some years ago I may be over-estimating the number of people who claim Indian ancestry.

        In any case that does not get back to the source of these oral traditions that have no factual foundation.
        The people who started these ideas were 3 or 4 or more generations ago and they weren’t suffering from any kind of ethnic identity angst. (We don’t hear much about the angst epidemic anymore, maybe there’s a vaccine.) I can see how it appeals to people today when we (whites) are becoming homogenized plain wrapper types. It just doesn’t add up for the people who started these myths.

        I have been reading some of your older posts. I like your style of writing. You seem to be reading some of the same blogs that I like and you do a good job of bringing another perspective to the issues. Are you interested in questions and comments on your older posts?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, certainly, question and comment away. Everything is up there because I value dialogue and discussion; if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have posted it. I am happy to have provided some entertainment.

    My experience with genealogy suggests that people like to talk about “interesting” results and have little to no interest in “normal” results. A finding of “About equal parts Welsh, English, and French,” is not interesting, but “About equal parts Welsh, English, and French, with 1% Amerindian,” is suddenly, “I’m part Indian!” 75% English, 12.5% Welsh and 12.5% Irish becomes, “I’m Irish! My ancestors were oppressed!”

    Fewer than a million people claim Cherokee ancestry, and both whites and Indians have negative growth rates, so even granting difficulties with exactly counting who is Aztec (vs other tribes in the region), I think you’re correct.

    I agree that people who looked white were probably taken for white (obviously genetic tests weren’t required to go to the bathroom.) The folks who I suspect may have claimed to be Indians, though, were half or quarter black, and lived in the 1800s. (Even that may have not been an intentional lying–in the case I heard, an ancestor was described as, “Dark as an Indian.” I can easily see this, over the generations, turning into, “Was an Indian.”) Statistically speaking, if we’re going back 150+ years in the family tree, we’re talking about hundreds of ancestors–enough that I’d expect a decent number of people to be able to find 1 mixed-race ancestor to talk about.

    Happy reading. 🙂

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  3. Nothing personal but “…Scratch a dozen whites, and I bet six of them secretly wish they could be something they aren’t…”

    The idea astounds me. I just don’t believe this is true.

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    • How many of them claim to be Irish when they aren’t? There are a bunch of folks in Boston claiming to be Irish who’ve never set foot in Ireland, but worse than that are folks without a scrap of Irish ancestry who still claim to be Irish because it lets them in on the whole oppressed ancestors racket. No one wants to admit that their ancestors were boring old Brits, or worse, “Americans.”

      The Indians have to deal with whites pretending to be Indians so much, they have a word for it: pretendians.

      It’s not just race; “bisexuals” overwhelmingly have heterosexual relationships. Furries and otherkin can’t even stand being human. Fat people would prefer to be thin. Feminists get outrage at the mere thought that there might be any kind of differences between men and women.

      How many whites express a real appreciation for white history, culture, music, literature, values, etc.?

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      • Maybe you’re right. I myself am a boring Scottish-English/French person. I know it’s cliche but I think there’s a little Cherokee in me too 🙂 I’m quite happy being so and wouldn’t have it any other way. I admit in my boring way I don’t see anything wrong with being what I am. I’m a little odd though. In my older age I’ve become a bit of a tribalist in the “my people come first” sort of way. Seems to work for everyone else. That said I can’t ever remember wanting to be any other race ever.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. […] is just Gossip, Moldbug, If Race is just a social construct, why can’t Rachel Dolezal be black? In 6th Grade, I Prayed Every Day for God to Turn me into a Mexican, Reality is a Social Construct, Pasting on our Plastic Smiles, The Marxist Meme-Plex as Cargo Cult […]

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