Advanced Essay #2: The Chameleon


My essay details how race is used a form of literacy in our society. Specifically, in situations where it is used as a first impression or form of perception. My goals for the paper itself were to detail the experiences I’ve had as a racially ambiguous person, and to detail how that’s affected my integration into certain societal events. As for areas of improvement, I could have expanded on my sense of memory by adding more dialogue. Overall, I am very happy with my essay and feel that it addresses literacy in a unique and interesting way.

Final Essay:

Being racially ambiguous is the human equivalent of being a chameleon. It’s a shapeshifting superpower that I use to my advantage whenever I see fit. Whether it’s when applying for a job or partaking in an interview, I modify my mannerisms and the way I look in order to fit into what seems to be the idea of perfection. In most cases, looking like a white woman saves me from facing the repercussions of being a minority in a majority ruled society. While I am not ashamed of my culture, it’s clear to see that being Hispanic is seen as a hindrance rather than a positive asset to many employers whom I’ve crossed paths with.  It’s the sad but true reality of my life, a clear depiction of the prejudices in place in our society.

When I was younger, I had never expected race to play as big of a role in my life as it does now. Race is nothing but a man-made system that’s sole purpose is to ensure that people are separated from each other, and it has managed to be an integral factor in determining my success. In more cases than one, looking like a white woman has saved me from the repercussions of being a minority in a majority ruled society.

A prime example of this was when I applied for a summer program at a distinguished university in Philadelphia. As I walked into the room for my interview, I could tell that the prompter was immediately confused. Her eyes darted towards the paper in front of her and then back at me. It was clear that I was not the applicant that she was expecting.

“Hi, are you Christina?” she asked cautiously, tension taut in her shoulders.

“Yes.”  I assured her.

“Great, take a seat.” she responded slightly confused.

As she took a better look at me her expression softened, while her shoulders eased back into a comfortable position. It was in that moment that I knew that she must’ve thought I was white. One of her own kind.

Day by day I relive the story of my life or as Jose Baca once called it in his book A Place to Stand  “the fable of my life,”  disappointed by the fact that sometimes I submit myself to society, by using looking white as a security blanket. I don’t embrace my Hispanic culture in those moments, but rather hide it in order to ensure my success. In our society, people like myself are forced to suppress their identities because they realize that we live in a white world.  Students of color come to the realization that they are at a disadvantage, and are forced to develop a kill or be killed mentality. This is not meant to be taken in a literal sense, but rather to signify that there is a need for minorities to develop thicker skin as a way to protect ourselves from the discrimination, judgement, and repercussions we face as a consequence of being marginalized.

Race is used and perceived as a first impression. In most cases, fair skin is seen as ideal and associated with being white, where are darker complexions are seen as odd and feared by many people. With that being said, people use their judgements to set lower expectations on people of color. Low expectations lead people of color to think little of themselves. They feel self-conscious and try to match their mannerisms to that of their white counterparts in order to fit in. The color of their skin causes their body language to change, analyzed in a way that will exaggerate any flaw. In my case, people assume my race and then refuse to believe me when I tell them they’re wrong. While it doesn't have much impact on them, I proceed to correct them. It's something I have to do in order to remain me, and remain true to my character.

W.E.B Dubois’ idea of double consciousness describes the feeling of having more than one social identity. Therefore, finding it difficult to develop a sense of self. This is a brief, but accurate description of the situation I am in. Although I maintain a high sense of pride for my culture, I wish that it wasn’t so hard to change people's immediate view of me. Correcting people feels like the only sense of dominance I have over my identity, and the feeling I experience is described wonderfully in the book Other People's Children when Delpit emphasizes that “you can only beat your head against a brick wall for so long until you draw blood.” In Delpit’s case she elaborates on how she feels that white teachers can not accommodate how black children needed to learn because they didn't understand how they feel on a emotional level. When comparing this to my situation, I clearly see her point because I face the same frustration in my everyday life, the feeling on being misunderstood.

In Dubious’  In The Soul of Black Folk, he argues that double consciousness is “this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” This is a feeling that is a common occurrence in many minorities because so long as white people remain the majority race and minorities will always be looked at as a second priority. As this internalized and unspoken language remains to exist in our society, the expectations will only continue to grow, crushing minorities in their midst.

Works Cited

Baca, Jimmy Santiago. A Place to Stand: the Making of a Poet. Grove Press, 2001.

Delpit, Lisa D. Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom. New York: New Press, 2006. Print.

Doe, R. John.  Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh, 1998. Print.

“Double Consciousness.” Double Consciousness [DuBoisopedia ], 18 Dec. 2013,