What Happens When You're a Light-Skinned Latino

What happens is that your "white ass" is sitting in your apartment on a Tuesday night at 11:30 p.m. minding your studies when your college roommate walks through the door in a jovial gait. You're not only excited to meet your roommate but the person behind him. You've never met him before, but your roommate assures you, "this is one of my really good friends." It's always exciting to meet new people, you think.

The couch you're sitting on is at least five feet away from the two of them, but you can smell the alcohol brewing on their tongues. This will be a fun conversation, you think, and you're not being sarcastic. There's something innately exciting and unpredictable about drunk conversations. After this experience, you'll learn that unpredictable is the better adjective. Here's why.

Predictably so, your roommate's friend, who we'll call Houston, initiates the conversation.

"Hey, man! I'm Houston, what's your name?" he asks as he puts his hand out for a firm handshake with your white hand.

In line with social norms, you introduce yourself, ask an ice-breaker question you would only ask a drunk person: "Why are you so happy?"

"Haha, because. I've been drinking a little tonight," says Houston. You appreciate the honesty. What a real guy, you think. "Dude, I've heard a lot about you. Clark has told me a lot about you."

"Awesome. So where are you from?" you say.

"Korea, but I went to high school in Philly," he says. "Where are you from?"

"I'm from Chicago," you say.

"Right, but where are your parents from? Are they originally from Chicago, too?"

"No, they're from Mexico," you say, not making anything of it. Brace yourself.

"WHAT? No way!" he says. "I never would have guessed. Good for you!"

"Huh? What do you mean?" you ask.

"You don't look Mexican. You're so light-skinned," he says. "Like, I would have thought you were from Spain or Eastern Europe. I never would have guessed. Congratulations!" His jaw is very open right now. He's in awe, but at what. He's congratulating you, but what for?

"What do you mean?" This, a question you ask when you're pretty sure you heard a bigoted remark but want to give the person a second chance to redeem himself.

"Like dude, not to be racist or anything like that," -- brace yourself because this is when you know something funky is about to come out of his mouth -- "but your life will be much easier because you're light-skinned. Like, girls will actually pay attention to you because you're not dark and short like most of my Mexican friends."

At this moment, you:

  • feel bad for his Mexican "friends."
  • realize he's still elaborating on his point.
  • feel like you have to say something to stand up for your cousins, aunts, uncles and friends who are "dark and short" and, hence, some of the people you've learned to love the most.
  • and realize that ---

"No dude," he'll interrupt your thought process. "You don't get it. Like, I see you, and I think you're white. You're going to get so many opportunities because of that. You should be so happy."

Yet you're not.

DISCLAIMER: Aside from that time I was called a "fat Mexican" in my third grade P.E. class -- which at that time, I just saw as factual -- this is my first experience with prejudice, racism, stereotypes or whatever you want to call this, but ask my "short dark" cousins, and you'll get another story.