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Dealing With Eurocentric Views of Beauty Inspired by Quicksand

Hey, all! It’s been a whole little minute since I posted something, but it’s not like anyone would really notice. My post today is about thoughts for myself on Eurocentric standards of beauty that we seem to thrust upon ourselves. This isn’t any newfound idea, but just my personal experiences with this expectation of beauty. Feel free to share any moments of your own for dealing with seeing your differences from society as beautiful and not just in an “exotic” way.

In my literature class recently, we read a short novel called Quicksand by Nella Larsen where the main character was a biracial woman dealing with the expectations from black and white people about her appearance or how she should act. A white man even takes her on a date to see a minstrel show in Europe where she feels incredibly ashamed for perpetuating any of the stereotypes they displayed in the performance. Multiple times through the novel, she feels shame for being happy or feeling any type of enjoyment because of the stereotypes of her race. She can’t seem to fit in anywhere.

This novel really spoke to me on a personal level since I’m biracial myself. I’m a lot younger so racial relations haven’t been as bad in my lifetime as they were during the development of this novel but I definitely understood the expectations from both sides of your family to look or act a certain way.

My white side accepts me more, but it doesn’t stop them from accidentally letting their racist comments about others in my presence. A quick, “Well, we don’t mean you,” always seems to follow like I’m the exception of some disgusting race that doesn’t belong here. I know they love me and don’t mean it that way, but if you look at it objectively, those are the type of subconscious signals they’re giving off.

My Hispanic side will often give me a hard time about how “white” I act and I’m left shaking my head as I say, “I am white,” which always seems to make them angry. I remember seeing a photo of my grandmother and my dad said we looked exactly the same, and I said, “We do look very similar, but she looks more authentically Puerto Rican with her eyes and cheekbones,” then I immediately got a lecture and was told, “What the fuck do you think you look like? Do you think you look white? You don’t and pretending to be white isn’t going to get you a damn thing in this world so you better quit acting as if you’re better than us,” which made me very confused. People told me I looked a lot like my mom, but if I don’t look white at all then how is that possible?

My mom is white and used to be blonde with hazel eyes so she was the symbol of what is beautiful by eurocentric standards. Then I would turn on the TV and all of my idols were white with blonde hair and blue or green eyes. I remember wishing as a child that my skin was lighter. I’d even avoid the sun because of the comments that would be made after I tanned. Most of my friends were white growing up because if you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t fit in with Hispanic people, especially down here in Texas where I grew up. There was always this feeling of not fitting in with anyone else or feeling beautiful, especially when all the guys you liked put you down for how you looked.

So I eventually felt like, what’s the point? No matter how much I avoid the sun, dye my hair, wear lighter makeup, I’m still not considered beautiful to many of the people I interacted with. I was borderline invisible to a lot of the guys I liked growing up. Even if they did end up talking to me, it had been comments about how “exotic” I looked or I was “pretty for a Latina” or whatever else. I even had one guy tell me after we had been dating for three months, “I totally thought you were gonna be another dumb Mexican chick until I got to know you and I’m glad you’re pretty cool,” and I remember thinking, “What the fuck does that even mean?”

I stopped trying and started walking around naturally as I was. I stopped straightening my hair, let the solid black grow out, let my natural face be my normal face, and eventually, I stopped meeting people who made comments about my appearance. The transition was hard at first since many of my old acquaintances tried extra hard to make feel insecure enough to go back to how I was, but I just stopped hanging out with them and met other people who were more like me. I feel much more beautiful now than I ever did before when I tried really hard to fit in with pretty white girls.

I’m sure most biracial people have had similar situations while they grew up about where to fit in with society. My only hope for people is that they are able to figure out how they can feel beautiful as themselves without having to put on a face. It still takes reminding and of course validation from others is always nice too, but it’s great to actually get it when you’re being yourself rather than after you’ve changed every single part of yourself to fit in. If someone doesn’t find you beautiful the way you look directly after showering, then they don’t really like you for who you are.

Feel free to comment any instances where you’ve felt all your efforts in your appearance were for nothing. Or maybe any comments your family has made to you that are derogatory about your other half. We can all hope for a better future since being biracial is becoming more of a norm.

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