Mixed Nation

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Personal Stories

Family Identity and Multiracial Status

When I began to identify myself as multiracial, I didn’t make it public. Not because I consciously chose not to, but because I didn’t think anyone would find it significant. My racial and ethnic identity is my own and I didn’t think that my shift from identifying myself as “white” to “multiracial” would affect anyone.

Then I was proven wrong.

About two weeks ago, my mother called me on the phone just to chat. After a while, she brought up casually that my maternal side of the family had seen some of my blogs. Of course they would, I thought; I linked to some of my posts on Facebook. One of my aunts told one of my uncles, and he said to my mom, “Apparently, Gianna doesn’t think of herself as white. Why?”

My mom told me that this wasn’t meant to be insulting, and I am sure it wasn’t. In any case, I didn’t feel offended. It just occurred to me how my decision to call myself multiracial could have implications for people other than myself.

My mother’s side of the family has always referred to its members as white. Since they are Italian and Basque, this makes sense in a way; Italians and Basques are, indeed, fair-skinned. But they aren’t “white” in the traditional sense – not Irish, Scottish, or Scandinavian. With that in mind, I still wonder if they’ve given thought to the idea that Italians used to be considered non-whites in this country.

But I didn’t want to bring up that philosophical debate. Instead, I just told my mother to relay to my uncle that I am half-Hispanic; therefore, I’m not technically 100 percent white. Although my process of identifying as multiracial went farther than just considering my Puerto Rican side, I didn’t want to explain everything.

I understand now that not everyone will understand my decision right away and that some people will still be curious about why I changed my mind on being “white.” However, sometimes there are things we need to keep to ourselves.

Gianna Cruet

Gianna Cruet is a Puerto Rican, Basque and Italian journalist working in California's Central Coast. She has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Reno and is a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.