My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, WHAT ARE YOU?

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-02-11 04:16Z by Steven

I’m Afro-Boricua. I’m biracial—my mother is white and my father is black, both Puerto Rican. Sometimes people don’t know that I’m black, but I’m black. I was raised in a black family, by my father and grandmother, both unapologetically black and unapologetically Boricua. My sister and I look brown, and our brother looks white. Our white grandmother was racist and threw around the n-word even when referring to us, me and my sister, her grandchildren. She made us feel like we were not part of her white family. But my brother, with his blond hair and his blue eyes, she loved to claim.

My whole life people have tried to tell me who I am or who I’m supposed to be. My whole life people have tried to measure my proximity to whiteness, always asking, What are you?

Jaquira Díaz, “You Do Not Belong Here,” KR Online: Kenyon Review, September 2017.

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You Do Not Belong Here

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, United States on 2018-01-30 15:56Z by Steven

You Do Not Belong Here

KR Online
Kenyon Review
September 2017

Jaquira Díaz
Gambier, Ohio
June 2017

A few years ago, during a summer in Puerto Rico, I went back to my old neighborhood, El Caserío Padre Rivera. When I was a girl, El Caserío, one of the island’s government housing projects, was a world of men, of violence. A world that at times wasn’t safe for women or girls. There were shootouts in the streets, fourteen-year-old boys carrying guns as they rode their bikes to the candy store just outside the walls. We watched a guy get stabbed right in front of our building once, watched the cops come in and raid places for drugs and guns. Outsiders were not welcome. Outsiders meant trouble.

What you didn’t know unless you lived there, unless you spent time there, was that most people in El Caserío were just trying to raise their families in peace, like anywhere else. The neighbors kept an eye on all the kids, fed them, took them to school, took them trick-or-treating on Halloween. All over the neighborhood, people told stories. El Caserío was where I learned about danger and violence and death, but it was also where I learned about community, where I learned to love stories, to imagine them, to dream. And it’s a place I love fiercely.

That summer, I drove into El Caserío to look at our old apartment, my first elementary school, the basketball courts where my father taught me to shoot hoops. I’d been there less than five minutes when a boy on a bike approached the car, motioned for me to roll down my window.

“What are you doing here?” he asked.

“Just visiting,” I said. “I was born here.”

He kept his hands on the handlebars, looked inside the car for a while, then gave me directions to the nearest exit, even though I hadn’t asked for them. He couldn’t have been more than sixteen.

“I know my way around,” I said. “I used to live here.”

“You do not belong here,” he said, then pedaled away, disappearing around the corner…

Read the entire article here.

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