I often get questions about my race and nationality from Americans as well as foreigners. Being a biracial American leaves a lot of people in a fumble. “You are Latina, but you don’t act like it. You are white, but you don’t really look like it.” Americans commonly tell me this, but from foreigners I receive a different response — “You don’t look American.” I am writing this article not only to give you the perspective of a biracial American, or to be relatable with other biracial Americans; more so I am writing this to question what being American means.
Growing up I was used to a fusion of two different cultures. My father is a white Texan native and my mother is from Honduras. To me, being biracial was not anything special or unique. It probably helped that there were many biracial people in the town I was raised in. Once I left my town and attended college, my mix of races became more apparent to me – especially going to a school where caucasians dominated the student population. I would get a few questions, but nothing out of the ordinary.
And then, I started traveling.
Explaining my identity became more difficult, and I felt a sudden pressure to let go of one side and to hold resilient to the other. Often when I would explain that I was from the USA, a lot of locals or travelers would skeptically ask, “But where are you really from?” I would find myself getting very frustrated with this question. I am American. I have never questioned it before. I grew up in Texas, I went to school in Texas, and graduated from a Texas university. Texas was my home. It was where I was from.
I will never forget an encounter I had abroad. I clearly remember getting an Uber from the central station to my AirBnb, and being asked “where are you from?” I braced myself for the skeptical questions and comments, I explained I was from America. From Texas. And the driver laughed in my face and said, “No, but really where are you from?” This time, I stood my ground for once to protect my identity. I told him again, that I was from America. And I will never forget when he responded with a frustrated face and said, “But no you are not. You do not look like it! You are from somewhere else! You are not blonde and do not have blue eyes.”
Okay, sorry, but in my mind I just thought, “what the fuck.” Is this actually what people think all Americans are like? What gave outsiders this perception of America? I got pretty annoyed, and just calmly said, “Well most Americans do not actually look like that”. (Side note: he got so pissed by this he didn’t give me a 5 star rating, which up to that point I had one…but it’s fine. I am fine.)
Sometimes, I wish I could just say— I am Honduran or I am white and American. But, I am glad to be a biracial American traveler. One of the best things about America is that it is a nation full of immigrants. There are many different religions, races, and ethnicities.
So what does it mean to be American? Or look like an American? Can this even be answered at all?
And why do outsiders have this stereotype of America being homogeneous racially? Is it our media? Is it the movies we are producing? I know that as a nation, we are working hard for equal representation within the government and Hollywood. But still, progress is to be made.
I am grateful to be a Biracial American traveler, so I can help challenge foreigners on what it means to look like an American. I am 100% American— and I am biracial. These two qualities coincide for this American gal.
About Kimberly: Originally from Texas, Kimberly is a full time traveler and digital nomad that has traveled extensively throughout Europe. She runs her own travel blog, Kim Crosses Borders, where she hopes to inspire others to go beyond their own borders. During her free time, she likes to try making local food from the countries she visits.