photo courtesy of Natalie Salas
by Natalie Salas
Ed Note: In the 2010 Census, over 4,000 residents of the City of Merced self-reported as being of more than one race. That number was almost a full percentage point above the state average and represents a 33 percent increase since 2000.
We live in a state that is often celebrated for containing diverse groups of people. As Californians continue to come together and form families across ethnic groups and racial lines, Natalie, 18, tells us about her experience as a self identified biracial person living in Merced.
Any time my full name is said in class, Natalie Ophelia Rueda Salas, people expect a full-blooded Mexican to answer but instead it’s me, a half Mexican, half Black young woman. I first heard the term ‘mutt’ when my friend jokingly referred to me as one. I had to ask her what it meant and she said that a ‘mutt’ is a person from more than one racial background.
When I started attending Yosemite High School at the beginning of the school year, an African-American girl started talking in my Leadership class. I couldn’t completely understand what she was saying because of the slang she was using. We had multiple classes together so she kept talking to me and most of the time I didn’t understand her. She would say things like ‘why do you try to act Mexican when you’re Black?’ Finally one day I couldn’t take it anymore and I burst out, telling her that she needed to stop making those types of comments towards me.
I was born to a Mexican mother and a Black father. To me, being bi-racial is a wonderful thing, it makes me feel like I’m one of a kind. Although other people may see it as negative, I see it as the most positive thing in the world. Biracial people can bring different cultures together around the world, break stereotypes and unite people. I think being biracial is really cool.
I grew up in Mexican culture because I was raised by a single parent, my educated Mexican mother. I am very proud of my Latino side but often times people think I’m only Black because of how I look. Sometimes people see me through stereotypes. Many people assume that I’m either an immigrant or really ghetto and living off the government.
I see myself mainly as Latina, I don’t identify too much with my Black side. I think I’m not in touch
with my Black side because I feel that would mean I would be claiming my father who is not in my life. I don’t currently have a relationship with him. I think this has caused me to distance myself from that part of my background growing up and now I don’t have a strong connection to that part of myself.