Appropriating Whiteness by Accident.

I didn’t do it on purpose. I mean I may have started to enunciate my words a certain way in middle school because “the way I spoke” was commented on a few times by white peers, but I swear I didn’t seek out to appropriate a white accent or mannerisms.

I also didn’t purposely choose to “act white”. I changed the music I listened to because we moved to another city (eventually another state)  and the R&B, hip hop, and rap music I listened to which included lyrics that brought issues that mattered to my Latina heart and soul to the forefront were no longer on the radio. All I heard was what they call gangsta’ rap. The music I grew up up listening to was no longer in spaces where diverse people of color were found dancing together.

I didn’t purposely choose to live in white spaces. My mom decided to move us to another city because the one we were living in was “too dangerous” and was worried that as a single mother she would have a harder time keeping up with 3 young girls.

So we moved.

We moved from a city that valued my Latina heritage to one where the Latinxs I saw were considered “the help”.

I also didn’t pick my name, “Suzanne”. Sara and Rafael thought it was a beautiful name in the 70s and one that seemed to belong to their daughter. I didn’t know that when “Suzanne” is combined with “Mateus” that people would assume I am white. I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that because I selectively choose who to speak Spanish to that I would be considered white. I take speaking Spanish very personally because of how highly stigmatized it became for me to speak it growing up como una “pocha”. To this day, you have to earn my trust and we have to have a certain level of intimacy as friends before I will utter a single word in Spanish to you.

I didn’t know that my distance between speaking Spanish and who I choose to speak it with would deem me as “white” or “acting white”. I didn’t know.

I didn’t appropriate whiteness on purpose. It was imposed on me by issues larger than you and I. It was a form of colonialism on my own identity.

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A glimpse into my academic life…..

This semester I am learning about language policy and discourse analysis. I am utterly reading pages and pages of material that are of utmost interest to me. I feel as if I have found my niche…or as I explained recently to a friend how my desire to become an anthropologist when I was a child is finally coming true. I am not becoming an anthropologist, but I am using research methods grounded in anthropology to study/research the way people use language. So below I offer a glimpse of how my thinking about language is evolving as I read pages and pages of salivating information about discourse analysis and language policy. Enjoy!

When speaking, researching, studying language-in-use it is impossible to leave out the political, economic, and social factors that influence language because language is a social construct. Yes, from a Chomskyan point of view all languages are inherently equal when it comes to structure and how they are acquired, BUT what is different is how the perception of each language is constructed as a result of political, economical, even religious factors SO how do we study or speak about language-in-use without considering our subjective views as they are influenced by our social, economical, and political ties. Is it in how we frame our research question and/or in how we analyze the data?