Tag Archives: puerto rican

The Trouble with Passing

Hi, My name is Shannon Murphy. Born in Ceiba, Puerto Rico and I call Luquillo, Puerto Rico home. I was raised between there and Pennsylvania. I am a Taurus. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. I have a Bachelors in Psychology. And I am Latina. But I am also passing. Now for those of you who don’t know what Passing is. Here’s the Urban Dictionary Definition, “When a light-skinned person is so close to the white race, it seems as if that person is white.” And in the current state of the Union, life is without a doubt easier when you are lighter.

Now Passing comes with a series of benefits that I take advantage of, even sometimes unknowingly. These benefits usually stem from White Privilege. A matter that is very divisive and that many people try to avoid talking about, to the point where after reading some of the definitions I have decided to not even include it because it would’ve just stemmed a troll war. But any way…What are these benefits?

Well for starters, when I speak Spanish, the remarks from the Caucasian race tend to be something along the lines of “Wow, it’s good to speak two languages. How did you learn to speak it with no accent? Did you study abroad?” Versus when my darker mother, or even ethnically ambiguous sister speaks Spanish they get the response, “This is America, speak English”

Another? When I’m in the mall, and the alarms go off, no one questions me, security hasn’t ever been called and I’m told it’s just a machine error and to have a good day. But when this happens to someone darker, they get to be pulled aside, security comes around, and have their bags and receipts checked.

Or my personal favorites, the joy of being able to wear dreadlocks, or a head-wrap without a problem. Getting to dress up the way I choose, with big door knocker earrings, and F*** Me Lipstick, in a plaid shirt, leaning like a Cholo, without a second glance. While those who pass by would say that I look “bohemian”, “exotic”, “ironic” and “Urban” cause they think they may have seen Kylie Jenner wear the same things. While those with more melanin are questioned on their cleanliness, their affiliations, their religion, and their legality. I get to be tattooed and not have anyone question the ink for the way they look, for their meanings, are they gang related? No, they’re expressions of me. But for other Latinos, they could mark you as a banger.

Because I am passing, no one really questions my ability, my prerogatives, my reasons for doing anything or being anywhere. I am just simply allowed to exist when I want and where I want because I am Passing. But I try to be vocal for those that don’t have these privileges in the least white-savior way possible, cause at the end I am not white, I don’t identify as white, and I will never identify as white. I am Latina, I was raised with Spanish music, eating Spanish food, asking for “bendiciones”. When I was sick, I got vaporub, when I was bad I got “La Chancla” and when people commented on my hair I was told I was lucky I didn’t have “Pelo Malo” even though that isn’t a thing . I have explained plenty of times that I know my privilege. I am a light skinned Latina, who speaks English with no accent, and my code-switching is at the top of it’s game, and my name is violently Irish causing no immediate conflicts.

The fact that I can be abundantly open with my emotions and never really have to check myself. I can say borderline whatever I want, and criticize however I please and when I am critiqued, I will be judged by what I have said and nothing more. My race will not be a factor, the way I speak will not be a factor, and the color of my skin will not be a factor. I will not be labelled as the “Crazy Latina” or the “Feisty Puerto Rican”.

The trouble with Passing is the fact that I am given privilege that others deserve more than me. Minority stories and experiences have value and should be heard and the fact that there have been numerous times in which that story has to come out of the white filter to be accredited is simply wrong. Minorities want to be a part of the narrative, they have worth, and lessons that can be learned through them. So when one is told that their experiences aren’t enough and aren’t valued until the white community has decided to validate them, well that is infuriating.

The problem that affects me most directly is I have the privilege to exist in two worlds but never fully in one. I could make my life easy and pass forever, take full advantage of a system that will be in my favor for the foreseeable future, but my roots are too strong for that, I stand with my people through thick and thin as they have for me. But when I come to exist in the Latino world, there’s always something just not 100% right about me, like a photocopy where the ink ran out and a small piece is missing. My name will continue to keep me sticking out like a sore thumb until I say my mothers maiden name and remind people “Soy Berrios”, with the rolled “R” but then sure enough at any party they may ask me to dance, and I love dancing, but that’s when Murphy comes out and my legs don’t connect to the ground in the right time, with the same rhythm and in the same tempo as my partners. Having dancing partners walk away from me because I don’t know how to salsa correctly, or dance bachata, I can’t even manage a simple two step. It makes me obviously the Gringa, and then comes the name calling, being Gringa, Blanquita, y Guera. When that happens I don’t know what to do. When I get harassed about being Latina, I can handle that. I have every fact down, and every rebuttal at the ready. But when I am called White, I feel myself shrink, I don’t know what to do or what to say because in my head I’m not white.

That Raza isn’t me. I benefit from the case of mistaken identity no doubt, but that’s not who I am. Soy Boricua, y esto es todo. But as long as I will continue to be am exception to the rule, and I continue to pass, best believe I’ll use that privilege to be the speaker for those who can’t. Because in the Trump-Era, the minute an accent is detected it quickly becomes discredited; when a foreign name is involved then the story behind it and the experiences are null and void, when you aren’t the perfect shade of white your voice and the mic you hold runs the chance of being turned off.

Until the day comes where every voice is heard the only advice I have is never be complicit, stand up, make yourself be heard. If you claim to be an ally do so in the fullest sense of the word, share the burden.

Poder

Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has without a doubt been a massive inspiration to me this year. Why? Well after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico and left many without electricity, water, and in some cases homes. With the slow responses from both the Puerto Rican and Stateside government many felt abandoned and many died from that neglect. So when I moved up to Pennsylvania and heard that a Puerto Rican woman from The Bronx was running for political offices, it raised hope in me. But in the beginning the hope seemed to not be enough. Living in a small, vaguely prejudice Pennsylvania farm town at the time, seeing a woman of color running for office without massive financial backing and winning just seemed unlikely. I wanted her to win and rise above but after seeing politics in work these past couple years it seemed so unlikely. But then, she won. She brought me hope and renewed my drive, and belief that Latina’s are some of the most powerful people. She was lifted up by her community and she plans to lift it up as well.

Now here I am in Thailand, working with the Peace Corps hoping to lift up another community on the other side. I hope to be able to teach future generations but most of all lift my fellow women, teach girls from a young age that they are powerful, wonderful, and above all, capable of anything they set there minds to.

When my service is done I hope to be able to go to The Bronx, and study International Law at Fordham University. I hope to specialize in women’s rights and help every woman rise up and reach there potential. I hope to inspire women and girls the same way that Alexandria inspired me. I hope to change the game and reinvent the wheel and redefine bravery. I hope to someday meet Alexandria and let her know how much she inspired me and women everywhere. I want to thank her for wearing hoops and red lipstick to her inauguration, and letting little Latinas know that look is powerful for a reason.

And if for some reason, she needs an intern, I’ll be available in 27 months and would love the opportunity.

Snorkeling

If I asked you to draw blind hope what would it look like? Could you create a melody that sounds like the best moment in your life? If I asked you what it felt like to drive home, knowing that there is someone waiting for you, could you tell me? These moments, these feelings transcend the boundaries of the human experience. They are proof that this world exists on a deeper level than what we could ever imagine. These moments make up the world we were meant to see. So where am I going with these philosophical thoughts? It’s simple really. We need to keep trying, keep exploring, and keep sharing these moments to enrich our souls but more importantly, to inspire others to seek out adventure.

Snorkeling. With that introduction, you might’ve thought that I found a land that time didn’t command or climbed a mountain whose peak no man has seen. No. I went snorkeling in Cayo Icacos. My friend had suggested that we take a “catameringue” trip. I initially found humor in the name because it was so similar to the delicious lemon pie. It wasn’t until several weeks after we came home that I realized I was pronouncing it horribly wrong, apparently, it’s spelled “catamaran.”  Good start, but as long as we remember to keep moving forward, it will all be okay.

We pulled up to this beautiful dock, with boats floating on crystal clear water. After tossing our shoes in a bin (still not sure why we did that) my friends immediately went to the back of the boat. In loyal fashion (and because I had no idea what else to do) I followed. I’ve never been on a boat like this before. As soon as we started sailing away, we bobbed in tandem with the gentle waves, swayed with the breeze, and was graced with an indescribable view. Words could never really do it justice. Suffice to say, I didn’t know where to look, but was intent on committing everything to memory. It was important to make sure everyone else in our four-person adventure group was getting this same experience, so I kept checking in. There’s nothing better than seeing the people you care about happy (not even a view like this one).

When we stopped near a beach, Kelly asked my shoe size. I thought she was joking, then I realized we were going to snorkel. Apparently, everyone else knew this was happening except for me. It was all such a new experience, and to be totally honest… I never knew how people breathed out of the snorkel tubes. One pair of flippers, goggles, snorkel tube, and one quick lesson later, I was intrinsically part of this warm, blue ocean. I can’t remember how long we swam, I wasn’t going back on the boat until I saw a fish. After I did, I rushed to the boat to relay this information and despite my excitement, I was given the look. “You saw a fish” – Kelly. “One fish” – Shannon. “Your going to love the next place we go.” – Kelly. Fifteen minutes later, we sailed to another island. On the way, a bird got so close to the boat and flew with us for a few seconds. It may sound silly, but I felt like we were one of the same. Imagine that? When it was time to get back in the water, everyone started jumping off the boat. Super casually throwing themselves off the side like it was THE NORM. After a little encouragement, I did too. It was a little high, but jumping in is never a bad thing is it? Read close because this next part, it’s unreal. My friends were already swimming ahead of me, I got distracted by the views above water. As soon as I started swimming, a school of blue and yellow fish were directly beneath me. They were swimming all around, comfortable and happy at home in the sea. My heart at that point was too full, but then Kelly turned around (I had no idea she was even waiting) and gave me some bread to feed them. Honest to Pete, they came right up. They weren’t scared or apprehensive, just trusting and excited (how cool is that?!) We swam and swam, saw coral reefs, gigantic fish with vibrant patters, sea urchins, and fish with long noses. I don’t remember how long I was under water, time froze in that moment. When I did come up to feel the sun, I looked to the boat only to find three people already waving back at me.

You never really know when the best days of your life are going to happen. One morning, you wake up and fall off a hammock. Then you find yourself on a boat, in the middle of an ocean, on a clear day, surrounded by people with hearts of gold. It’s the kind of day you don’t know what you did to deserve, the kind of day you revisit in the hard moments, it was the kind of day that ignited a passion. So no… I didn’t peak an unclimbed mountain or travel down an endless river. I went snorkeling, and that experience in itself, was enough. More than enough.