My father’s name was Loncy E. Hutson, Jr., born on September 4, 1930 in South-Central Los Angeles. He was black, with a splash of Cherokee mixed in for good measure. One of his ancestors was a slave on a plantation in West Virginia; the owner’s surname became ours. (My birth certificate calls him “Negro,” but we’d be content to be called “Colored,” or whatever. Unlike many, we don't argue over such silly things.)
My mother’s name was Dorothy Gloria Ambrosia Lueras, born May 15, 1938 in Atrisco, New Mexico. Her grandparents migrated from Mexico in the mid-19th century. She grew up in the barrios on the Eastside of Los Angeles, and attended Rosemead High School. (All of these photos are from our high school days, age 17 or 18.)
In my youth we invariably spent Christmas Eve with my mother’s family. The typical holiday fixin's were supplemented by tamales, tacos, and a big steaming pot of Aunt Bea’s menudo. Christmas day we walked down the street to Nana’s (Dad’s family), where she served up grits, greens, and gumbo alongside the bacon and eggs. For most people this melange might seem odd; but for my sister and I, it was absolutely normal; we knew no other way.
My parents’ best friends were the Marshalls, the Egardos, and the Mendelsons; that is, a black
So why don’t I talk about it?
It’s because of the strange reactions: They don’t believe me. Or they expect me to hold politically correct views on immigration, or affirmative action, or school busing, or welfare reform (and I often disappoint). And how can I possibly take sides in the battle between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin? Or, how can I embrace one part of your heritage without denying the other? Shouldn’t I feel conflicted?
I've had my black friends tell me I'm not "black" enough, because I don't speak like I'm straight out da 'hood. My Latino friends tell me I'm not "Latino" enough, because I don't speak Spanish fluently. (I've never known many Cherokees.) Why is it better for "my own people" to tell me what to do, or how to act, or who to date, than for an outsider to tell me the same? Is this intramural pressure any better than racism? Someone tell me, please. I can't tell.
So, am I "proud" to be black, or to be Mexican? I don't know; should I be? In my mind, "pride" has to do with taking satisfaction in my achievements; my marriage, my writing, my high school swimming exploits, my many career promotions. These things pushed me and challenged me, and today I'm a better person for it. Not better than any other person, mind you, but better than ME without.
Hey, I have an idea: The next time one man kills another, let’s treat them as individuals instead of groups. Let’s wait for an investigation, before we jump to the most sinister motive. Or do you really believe it’s more righteous for you to hate me, than for me to hate you?
I’m just me. Like everyone else, I'm the product of my nature, my nurture, and my own freewill choices. I'm not trying to be anything, or anyone, else. Is that enough? Tell me now, before we get too invested in each other.