THE BLOG

'Investing' in Whiteness: A Latina's Struggle to Form Her Own Physical Identity

02/18/2015 11:13 am ET | Updated Apr 13, 2015

I was born with black hair and brown skin. Living in a border town ultimately meant that 90 percent of the girls around me were destined to look exactly like me -- because all Latinas have black hair and brown skin, right?

I can't tell you if this is the reason why I've always wanted to dye my hair a different color. But it is the rationality behind my investment in whiteness.

I was always under the impression that my black hair wasn't good enough. Have you ever heard of that idea that blondes are bimbos? Well, for me, that blonde bimbo stereotype meant that someone would at least give me their attention -- instead of just being the person of color in the back of the room.

I invested in whiteness because I knew that I would get a different reaction when speaking with people in a business setting. I knew that someone would be more willing to listen to a Latina if her skin wasn't as dark and if her complexion wasn't as "Latin."

I felt ashamed to embrace the body I was in because it already came with its own identity long before I was born. It was sort of like a Barbie: You knew what you were getting as soon as you saw it from the outside. If you saw a white woman with blonde hair, sunglasses and a beach ball, you knew you were getting a Malibu barbie. If you saw a girl with dark skin and black hair, you knew you were getting a "Latina" barbie.

Because of my physical characteristics, I began a life of struggle before I could even say my name. Society already assumed I was going to be a teenage mother, not finish high school and probably end up working a hospitality job -- if I was lucky.

And while there are many beautiful black hair, brown skin Latinas, these are are all things white women don't have to worry about. Is it a crime to not want to have these worries?

You don't see a white woman asking to be black, Latina or Asian American. A white woman won't think about transforming her physical identity no matter who they are, what they have, or where they come from. White women will always have the privilege of being a white woman -- and that will ultimately help them out more times than not.

The second that a Latina attempts to stray from these stereotypes is when the issue becomes much more than just their own. While society will tell the Latina woman one thing, people within their community and/or culture will tell them another, shifting the attention to their authenticity of their Latin culture.

Take Cameron Diaz or Jessica Alba. Why is it that they can be mainstream superstars without having to portray Latina characters? And why is it that when we do think of Latina superstars, they aren't the first Latinas that come to mind?

I shouldn't have to have backlash for wanting to dye my hair another color. But I shouldn't have to dye my hair another color to have something that's my own.