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Dear Clarisse,

I am a white Latina living in Miami, FL. All my friends are Latinx and/or black, and I completely identify with Latinx culture. I have been wondering if I am considered a POC.

I was invited into a hidden Facebook group for POC, and after being a member for a few days and hearing other POC talk about their lives, I realized how much I identify with POC even though racially I am white. I don’t identify with white American culture at all! I try to stay in my lane, but I find myself more confused every day regarding where I fit on the spectrum of privilege. The hidden Facebook group for POC that I am a part of has become a safe space for me where I can check my own life experiences against those of other POC to help me find where I fit, but I am also wondering if I am invading other POC’s safe space by being on that group because racially I am white… Knowing where I belong will help me answer some other questions that I have, like, is it totally out of my lane to wear bamboo hoops? I know they were popularized by black women and were then adopted by Latinas, which I am. Is it even ok for brown Latinas to wear them, much less myself? There’s all sorts of issues attached to my questions of whether being a white Latina makes me a POC or not.

Any advice?

-Anonymous

 


 

Dear Anonymous,

Identity and belonging are two emotions that influence so much of human life, and without it, it is easy to feel lost, and not know where to turn.

But, and I hate to go all Merriam Webster here, I think that I can safely say that you have found the place where you belong among your Latinx family, and I say so on the definitions of ethnicity and race, the definition of ethnicity that applies here being “affiliation or identity within a group of people bound by common ancestry and culture” and the definition of race being “a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.” And all that truly, fundamentally makes up a Latinx individual is the fact that they are a person of Latin American descent. So, in sharing in their culture, you are ethnically Latinx. That part of your identity is valid, no matter what anyone says.

So this is what I would recommend: that as far as your involvement in your Facebook group goes, you can ask if the group would like you to be there as support, as it is your true culture. But if they have a concern about you being there, that is their right as well. You are a white person in a POC space. While this may seem like a paradox, what with you enjoying their identity but also not being a POC, it is okay. It is yours, but be respectful and remember that you are still white, so if they have a concern about you in their space, respect that concern, while knowing that you are still you. In essence, you are not a Rachel Dolezal of the Latinx community, nor should you ever feel like one.

In essence, you are not a Rachel Dolezal of the Latinx community, nor should you ever feel like one.

Finally, as far as your question about bamboo hoops goes, I, again, out of safety concerns, would not wear them in public. I also shy away from the hoops because as so much has been taken from black women already by not just Latinx people in this case, but white people and other ethnicities and races, that out of respect for your black friends, I would not. That is also what I say to your question for brown Latinx people, no out of respect alone.

But again, this is not a rule book. You are the only one responsible for your decisions of identity within yourself, no matter how much society attempts to dictate that. Whatever makes you feel most at home.

I hope that that made sense. If not, you know where to find me, friend.

Sincerest,

Clarisse

 


Do you want advice from Clarisse? Send her an email at submit4margins@gmail.com with the subject line “Advice Column.” She’ll answer it as soon as she can!