Below is a post I submitted for a blog series on Race, Identity and Faith by Cornell University’s Christian Publication Claritas.
When it came to everyday discussions on race and ethnicity I was once very insecure and confused. Because for me, this is how conversations generally go:
“What is your background?”
“I am three quarters Mexican and one quarter German.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed! You don’t look Mexican at all. Do you speak Spanish?”
“No, not fluently.”
“Where in Mexico is your family from?”
“I’m not sure. I think Guadalajara?”
“Oh, well do you speak German?”
This leads to a little awkward silence. Then the conversation shifts its attention to the next person.
Now, after to being humbled by God in many respects, this has become more comedic than crushing. Before, however, I always longed to be connected to a culture like everyone else. I was a 2nd generation Mexican-German American, whose language and traditions had been diluted by my family’s transition to the U.S. society. I stood light-skinned and embarrassed by my lack of exoticness.
People-pleaser that I was, I sensed the disappointment in others and questioned whether I really had an ethnic identity. Was I just neutral? Did I belong anywhere? And there was a subtle, but persistent doubt about my status as a minority. A Latina by blood but not in customs, I often felt compelled to fake that I knew more about my Mexican culture than I really did.
Thankfully, God shook me from this deception. As beautiful and rich ethnic cultures can be—each in their own way displaying God’s glory—He reminded me that in the end one identity would surpass them all. Identity in Jesus Christ.
“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator,” God wrote in Colossians 3. “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
Beyond the need to fit any Hispanic mold, or German one at that, was my need to stand as a “new self” before God, as a person saved by Jesus Christ from my lies and other failings. Because when it comes to the family of God, filled with peoples so diverse in every respect—ethnicity, language, struggles, vocation, and history—there is no division, segregation, or bias. We are all made in the image of the Creator, and all redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection. Unity is here.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
With this in mind, I am no longer ashamed to discuss my weaker cultural connections. If anything, it encourages me to appreciate what I can learn about Mexicans, Germans, or any ethnic group, and see how they uniquely serve and reflect God. God sovereignly places each of us in a lineage and ethnicity, knowing that in whatever form it could be used to bring us to Jesus.