My family is upper middle class. I speak English. I went to private school. I had a pony. Now my father pays for me to go to college. He can afford any school I want. I could go to school on the moon, if I wanted. He pays for my credit card. I work, but not because I have to. My minimum-wage job is a hobby.
The whole world is mine for the taking. I have everything, while others have nothing. Because I am “native.”
My mother has never immigrated. She is white, but tans easily and keeps the pigment for a long time. She is middle class. Privileged, et cetera. She went to private school, and her childhood home, built by her father, had a big back yard with no fences. Her father paid for her to go to her choice of two Christian colleges. After that, she worked. She paid her way through grad school. She earned a career in business. She was never challenged for being “native”.
My Grandmother never immigrated. She was…white? Yes, she was white, we say, and never thought further about the way her nose arches, the way her skin was shades and shades darker than ours. We never thought further about how my mother’s nose, my nose, is the same nose. Her hair was black, and her mother used to caller her “my little gypsy child,” because she looked so different. She spoke Polish before English. She cooked pierogi and guwumpki for holidays, but she was American. Of course she was American– a little piece of paper says so. Because of that paper she got married, had a family, could buy insurance. Could survive.
Her name was Alice. No, her name was Alitzia; she changed it to sound more native. We find an old birthday card, addressed to Ellis. She dies, and we find her birth certificate. It is in Polish, and with what little of the language my mother speaks, she can see its yet another name. We realize we don’t know which one is real.
My Great-Grandmother emigrated from Poland. She spoke English only when she had to. She went to school up to the second grade. She was white. Because if she was not, then we are not.
Maybe my great-great grandmother also came from Poland. Maybe she made pierogi like my grandmother. Maybe she kept a tan. Maybe she had a pony. Maybe she was white. Maybe she wasn’t. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know what came before Poland. And there is always a before.
We’ve forgotten our past because it made life easier. Now all we know is my mother is darker than me, and my grandmother was darker yet. Our roots stop at Poland- we are Polish, and that is all. We don’t care about our Middle-eastern noses, or our middle-eastern coloring that has gradually faded to little princess Snow White.
I am white. But that is leaving out part of my history. I gain acceptance, I gain opportunity because of this omission.
What am I losing?
Is it worth it?