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January 4, 2013

Am I the sell out?

A semi successful Hispanic male- if you can call me that. I speak, read and even write Spanish but only for a fee or my own needs. I identify with black friends, play spades and love durags. I only hung up my durags and stocking caps to be perceived as the professional man I am. I secretly saved them all. Yup, the candy-cane, the orange, the baby blue- all of them.
I don’t like Bacardi or Brugal- I sip Remi Martin. Heck I love Reggae and Rap. Bachata, Merengue and all that are only good after a few drinks. Indeed I have two Spanish friends and the rest can be labeled African Americans.
I went to private school from junior high on up. And even in public school I was in a gifted program. I mention that to toot my parents horn not my own. I’m merely the sum of those who loved me enough to give beyond my needs. Yet in both environments I didn’t fit in. In the public school arena I was not materialistic and my parents were a decade older my classmate’s parents. My sneakers were never fly in grade school, and I was always a little bit odd. When junior high came with a jump to a posh private school I was quirky and afraid and my parents were now much younger than my classmates. Indeed I wasn’t with the minorities as many of these blacks and Hispanics et al came from the previously integrated backgrounds of which I had no concept. Basically they had been brought into this new world at a much earlier age than I and in some cases were already members before birth. The kids who were rich, whose parents ran multinational conglomerates, mystified me.
Indeed I was awash in a world unknown to me. And oddly here too my wardrobe was questioned. However the environment was safe and vastly more educational than any public school for which I was destined. Indeed my sister, a prodigy, had blazed this path before me and she returned to the same school I was entering as a prodigal alumni of circumstance (no High school when she was there). Sports, education, I tried it all. I even got to make friends I’ve kept 20 years almost to the day as I write this.

And yet I ask: Am I The Sell Out?
I love Italian food. And I love books and weightlifting. I loathe most popular sports and as such lose that minority bond most have with kindred spirits of being warriors on the court. Tennis is my favorite. Badminton, assuming it’s a sport, supersedes it. I never wore my pants down. Never joined a gang. Now many of my people didn’t so I won’t sound the racist though I’m sure many of you say I am. I’m merely pointing out phases that illuminated my youth and those of millions of inner city youth. Indeed I had an early curfew and was forbidden from buying condoms when it was a homework assignment. My folks always positioned themselves counter to society if it wasn’t their brand of Christian. And I’m not knocking them. I’m 32 with no kids, no diseases, no jail time and no criminal record. By all accounts I’m an oddity not matching the statistics that have come to speak for my people all too often.

Am I the sell out because I love rice and beans but won’t go to the Puerto Rican Day Parade? Is it wrong that I prefer to stay home and read a history book as opposed to being with my “brethren”?
My mother’s parents came to New York from P.R. and built a life that gave their kids everything they never had. And my grandmother was fiercely Hispanic, vastly proud. She went to the Puerto Rican Parade for years, decades I’d venture. Do I let her down? Do I not do my genetic and historically indigenous people justice by being fiercely adherent to the culture I’m labeled under?
I’d venture I’m actually the goal they achieved. I’m a Puerto Rican without question and my allegiance is to my family first, my people second. However I don’t hinge my decisions on my ethnicity. I don’t vote my skin tone or live through racial and ethnic undertones. No. I’m beyond that. I’m a fully integrated American male (Puerto Rico is an American common wealth FYI so I’m American by all accounts) with a sense of self-worth and a great education.
-If I’m a sellout because I lean conservative, vote my heart, love my wife and family, then I guess I am.
If loving Italian cuisine and speaking English as a preference and having a vast vernacular make me a sellout, then I am.
If I’m a sell out because Cisneros and Neruda and Che aren’t my heroes or authors I aspire to be- then so be it.
If being a sellout requires I lead my people by being myself and setting an example, and by bridging gaps they refuse to see, and voting for parties they loathe without purpose- then I’m moving to Uncle Tom’s Cabin and will await the day that I am more Zula than the Bluest Eye.

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