CNN Essay, Life Is More Colorful Than Black & White

Raquel_Cepeda_4New York (CNN) — Who am I? I used to think the simplest explanation was black and white. But I’ve recently discovered that the truth is much more colorful.

Because I’ve spent most of my adult life being mistaken for everything but who I am — Moroccan, Brazilian, mixed African-American and white American, Israeli, Palestinian, the list goes on — the very question has inspired me to embark on a travel adventure back through time in search of answers.

This is what I know for sure: Ethnically, I am a New York City born woman of Dominican parentage. I self identify as a Latina, Dominican-American and Latino-American, interchangeably. But racially, through the science of DNA testing and tracing my family’s own migration story, I’ve begun to receive confirmation of what I’ve always believed to be true not only for myself but many of the 47 million-plus Latino-Americans across the country: the subject of race in our community is kaleidoscopic, more complicated than what the census 2010 checkboxes offer.

TO READ THE REST OF THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

CHECK OUT THE ENTIRE “WHO AM I” PROJECT, HERE.

Comments 16

  1. Via FB: J. Torres

    Great piece, thank you. I wish we could all (Latino Americanos, Caucasian, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, etc) take ancestral DNA tests and truly find out the roots of our heritage. Then maybe one day we could have one box asking only one question: How do you identify yourself.

  2. H. Bond

    I would love to participate in such tests to demonstrate the vast diversity among us – especially since I am often mistaken for “everything but what I really am…” Nice work, Raquel.

  3. (don’t have a CNN account, so I’ll comment in this space)

    “While the census form is supposed to help show the sociopolitical climate and composition of America, it only underscores how out of touch its architects truly are.” Well said. My fear is that in 10 years, this will continue to be an issue. As long as the architects selected don’t reflect more of what they attempt to categorize. Us. But then again, I couldn’t have imagined a U.S. president, with melanin, in my lifetime, so now I’m hopeful.

    I’ve been away for awhile. Always enjoy your posts/writing and I’ll be back soon.

  4. Dear F. Tygart;
    My piece has nothing to do with the term “Hispanic” or “Latino.” That wasn’t the point. I also wasn’t ignoring Spain…My ancestors entered Spain through Maroc. Please do write a piece praising my Spanish ancestors. You can add yours to the volumes and volumes already written that obsesses on that point of view.

    Raquel,
    What an Avant-garde conclusion to an otherwise blasé diatribe on how the Hispanic community has hijacked the term Latino. Might you be reminded of your ancestral “Spanish” conquerors Ferdinand and Isabella whom commissioned said Italian navigator? Neglecting to acknowledge the nearly four centuries of Spanish conquest of the Americas through slavery and miscegenation is the epitome of intellectual dishonesty.

  5. Via FB, From M. Gomes

    Great article. I traced my father’s DNA and the lineage went from the Jerico in the Middle East to North Africa before going to Portugal. I used the National Geographic DNA test kits. Very cool.

  6. Via FB, from K. Kepniss from Oregon

    great work, raquel. i’ve always wanted to do a test like that, as i am also frequently asked “what i am.” is it available for anyone?

  7. Via CNN:

    From robinsondb
    Thank goodness someone said something about this …I checked a box in practically every category offered…. And why under “white” why didn’t the census break that down into French, German, etc….then I could have checked even more boxes..

  8. Via CNN:

    From two13s:

    Love this piece, Thank You! I myself am a Dominican-American female, and have always wanted to know what would be discovered in my DNA. I have had all sorts of different opinions of what race I may be from all types of people. When I recieved the Census form question #9 made me put it on hold for 2 …more
    Love this piece, Thank You! I myself am a Dominican-American female, and have always wanted to know what would be discovered in my DNA. I have had all sorts of different opinions of what race I may be from all types of people. When I recieved the Census form question #9 made me put it on hold for 2 weeks, as I tried to figure out what to put down and at the same figure out why I should even answer question #9. I finally decided to call NALEO, after getting nowhere with the Census Bureau. I was informed by NALEO, to mark of other race and write Mestizo or Mixed, which I did but was not completely satisfied with.

  9. Via CNN:

    From jeffreyroot:

    I really, really love this piece. In these cases I always check the other box and write down “Human” next to it. Humans come in all shades and colors and characteristics. Albino, many shades of tan, many shades of browns, different size noses, different colors of eyes, short, tall, big ears and small. In the end we are all living and we all deserve the chance to live.

  10. Via CNN:

    From bijou33139

    Thank you for such a thought provoking piece! I agree that race is still relevant and should be discussed. Although this country faces many serious issues, race is inevitably intertwined with them: health care, education, the mortgage crisis, immigration, jobs, etc. FYI, I didn’t fill out my census form until after I saw your interviews with ppl and discussion on Don Lemmon’s show.

  11. Via CNN:

    From Guest

    Great piece, thank you. I wish we could all (Latino Americanos, Caucasian, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, etc) take ancestral DNA tests and truly find out the roots of our heritage. Then maybe one day we could have one box asking only one question: How do you identify yourself.

    Me, I was born in Brooklyn NY to Puertorican parents, who moved back to PR when I was one year old. I moved to NJ right after HS. Married a third generation Italian woman. Not sure how to classify my Italian American/Caucasian – Puertorrican daughter. And by the way the mix race of a Puertorican would be Native Island Indian/Spaniard/African

  12. deevazquez
    Great read! Cepeda brought up some great points in this article. We are more diverse than the census draws us out to be and hopefully we will see some change in the forms that directly reflect who we are as a people.

  13. From Natalie Washington-Weik
    Like it, you make many good points. Most importantly your main idea that a wider AND better variety of descriptions needs to be on the census can’t be overstated. When I heard there were only 10 questions, I thought–‘so what will we learn with that?!’ I guess I’ve learned I’m a Negro like my grandfather was likely classified as in 1935.

  14. Dear Raquel,
    I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m interested in how the Latino community feel about Italian born, naturalized US citizens were who elect to select Latino as ethnicity and white as race on the 2010 US census? I have a personal interest as both my wife and children fall into this category.

Leave a Reply