Caution and Suspicion While Being Brown by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Being brown, and being very aware of how people react to your brownness is both a gift and a curse.
I’ve had some brown friends who often times confused racism with lighthearted sarcasm. I stay away from these brown friends because they become defenders of White supremacy in a very general sense. It is like they do not want to see our families being deported out of this country while nobody is doing anything about it. It is like they do not see cops killing our hermanxs, and the consistent neglect of our governments to declare these acts: terrorism, because of the color of the perpetrator’s skin. It is like they do not see that they have become the token brown friend in their friend circles. Because even when you think you have made it “in” behind your back they will call you a coconut or more American than your actual heritage, or a slew of other things I have actually heard white people say when they refer to their brown friend who has learned to pretend they are not brown.
Being this shade of brown means that I not only have taken the time to ensure that my cultural markers are visible in my aesthetics, but I have also resisting the erasure of my accent, and I have also resisted the dominant narrative that does not include me and my raza. Being this shade of brown, in this America, means that I am constantly cautious.
In my field we read texts with a particular lens that we call “hermeneutical suspicion” meaning that we approach any interpretation of a text with a calculated amount of suspicion because neutrality is a lie and there are always agendas behind all interpretations, whether intentional or not. A lot of people of color, within my world, talk about entering White spaces and entering into White friendships, with a certain amount of suspicion.
We know that we live in a world where white supremacy reigns, and we also know that there are the winners and the losers within this schema. We also know that racism is so embedded in our culture that it has become microscopic, the ways in which White people approach us and talk to us is oftentimes drenched in racism without them even knowing what is happening. This happens when you benefit from a racist society and insulate yourself within the walls of White America: racism IS you calling me: “SPICY” despite the fact that you may say that with a laugh and with all the undertones of a compliment. This seasoning that many of you have chosen to pretend is a compliment, is actually drenched in a history that dates back to FDR times when Latinas were exploited for government agendas on national television. But again, White Americans usually do not know this history and so they feel blameless in their regurgitation of a racist tradition that dehumanizes and has historically been used to exploit entire countries for decades.
Being this shade of brown, in this America, means that I am constantly cautious.
Being brown, and being very aware of how people react to your brownness is both a gift and a curse. Because when I am planning a vacation, I know that I am aware that I read brown and how I move through the world in all my brownness is a direct insult to Whiteness. Because how dare I be proud of my culture and my nationality. How dare I walk with my shoulders back, and speak to people the way I do…Being this brown and this woke is good for all of us, but also extraordinarily excruciating because I cannot travel to certain countries because I know that there is a high chance that I will be treated poorly simply because White supremacy is real and my strut is real, and unless I am willing to apologize for my existence, I might as well stop planning trips that can become more violent to my soul than soothing for my body.
I am allowed to be skeptical of White people because of hermeneutical suspicion. My hermeneutical suspicion has made me approach them with all that I know about my experiences with people who benefit from White supremacy and class privilege, because microaggressions are still aggressive to me.
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez
National Speaker, Guest Writer & Founder, Latina Rebels