"Wow, you are so articulate. You don't talk like you're Puerto Rican." That has got to be one of the most insulting, pseudo-compliments that I receive too often. Let's start off with the fact that it seems being articulate is somehow disassociated with being Puerto Rican. Let's continue with the idea that a person's ability to speak and express themselves well is essential to effective communication -- a trait that apparently Puerto Ricans do not possess, according to some of my acquaintances.
I am an educated Latina. Those two characteristics should not be foreign. So, why do some people have to pigeon-hole a certain image they have about others? Why do such inappropriate assumptions about Puerto Ricans shape one's thinking about an entire group of people? One might think that I would get upset about such a comment. It perturbs me, but hardly upsets me. Probably because I have been exposed to similar statements too many times before. Even such statements made by my own family members. What do you say to your own Puerto Rican blood that accuses you of "acting white" because of the way you speak? What kind of images do they have in their own head regarding Puerto Ricans? Is that image negative? If so, why does it have to be negative? Where did the disassociation with articulation and Puerto Ricans even begin for that person? Again, the detachment of articulation skills and Puerto Ricans is outright appalling. I know I do not speak for only myself. I have many beautiful, brown relatives and friends that have experienced the same comments from folks who have a narrow-minded perception about Puerto Ricans.
I also find it particularly interesting as someone in an interracial marriage (my husband is Caucasian) that our children's light skin color is also viewed as a positive fixation. I love the skin color of my children -- no matter what it is or would have been. The fascination, however, with having lighter skin among one's own race or ethnicity baffles me. My mother grew up in Puerto Rico and as the darkest little girl among her fair skin, light-colored hair and eyes' cousins, she stuck out. In fact, she was often teased and told she was adopted. Her aunt even told her that if she consumed cow's milk, her skin would become whiter. My mother despised milk growing up, but when she heard that from her aunt, she believed it to be true and gulped it down daily. My mom grew up feeling extremely self-conscious about her skin color. An almost inferior self-image. She is better today and has learned to love herself, but that skin color sure makes some folks pause.
My skin color is clearly darker than that of my kids. I do not think it's a remarkable difference, but it must be so, as I have been confused for the nanny on more than one occasion and have experienced the brief, stunned expression on people's face when they see that I am their mom. I wonder what they would think if they heard my articulate speech. This dangerous standard that some members in society have about labeling people is truly limiting their humanity. Plain and simple, those that may articulate themselves well and have a darker skin color should not be considered the exception.