Good to meet you, Jolyka :Thoughts on the US and race.

I am worried about or culture. And I am ashamed of myself. The whole issue of race in America has gotten so very out of hand that today I actually asked myself whether or not to

And I am ashamed of myself. The whole issue of race in America has gotten so very out of hand that today I actually asked myself whether or not to

The whole issue of race in America has gotten so very out of hand that today I actually asked myself whether or not to donate to a nominally Black charity. I am a Cuban-American, and I am white. Genetic testing traced my ancestors back to Spain rather than to any of the islands or Africa.

I am a Cuban-American, and I am genetically white. Genetic testing traced my ancestors back to Spain rather than to any of the islands or Africa. There are my labels for those who care.

Sadly, I also live in the US where labels are something of a fanatisicm.

Which means in the U.S., I have to give you my labels and some details for context.

I pass as White American the majority of the time, but if I admit to my Cubano roots I am suddenly Latino to the majority of White people. (Which is weird because Latinos definitely class me as White.)

So I am on a shifting edge. It has made me uneasy.

And it gets stranger still – when I came out as LGBT a few years ago and decided to change my name, I was faced with the question of what sort of name to choose.

Frankly, my father was very abusive, physically, emotionally, sexually, and I did not want to carry his name anymore. But I had issues with my maternal family as well.

To make things a level weirder yet, my father had raised me as White. Not just American but Southern White. He was a Cuban man the local hicks of our intolerant hometown had nicknamed Pedro cause to them Hispanic was Hispanic (but not as politely as that) and he so desperately wanted us to fit in.

He hunted with the rednecks. He joined the army (according to my mother), he collected Confederate coins and money, he went to Civil War re-enactments. He worked in the factories. He drove American made trucks. He wore Levis. But most of all he stopped speaking Spanish and he forbid his children, my brother and I, from learning the language.

I did not know I was Cuban-American until I was a teen and by then it was way too late to embrace that side of my heritage. Hard to learn the language. Five states removed from the city where he came ashore. No idea of the culture. No idea of the music. No real connection at all.

Not that I fit into the Southern culture either. Gay, Intellectual, Buddhist, and autistic. Did I mention autistic?

So I was a complete outsider.

The name I chose took all that into consideration – not my family names, nor my family cultures. I named myself for the four most influential men in my life – the father/mentors who allowed me to grow up sane and be who I was. Spenser, Stephen, and two men named Roberts.

I am Spenser Stephen Roberts.

I did not realize at the time that even that name had race echoes.

Spenser was Irish named for an Irish author. Stephen was Greek but his father had chosen him a nice American name as well, a Northwestern one suitable to collegiate Ithaca, NY where they lived, and Robert is a fine English name, with Roberts being a shortening of Robertson – son of Robert.

So yes, people figure I am White.

And American.

Really vanilla, whitebread American.

Which is ironic, as I am a liberal, anti-trigger warning, pro-personal responsibility, intellectual, who is very seriously considering moving to pretty much any other country at this point…with Cuba as an option.

God laughs.

But does all this miscegenation, cultural conditioning, or emphasis on the rational make me immune to racism, in myself, or in others perceptions of me.


Watch this.

I have Black friends. (That will be misinterpreted because it has a meaning in most of America, not a nice one.)

I support Black people. (That one will be misinterpreted too, because I am “White”, yes, and thus subject to White guilt, and never mind that I was born in this country in the late 20th century and that my blood relative on both sides had only been in the U.S. for about a generation or two each. Cubans and German immigrants who came here in the 40’s. And no one in my genealogies ever owned a slave, although I can’t rule out Nazis and Inquisitors.)

I like jazz and Delta Blues. (Even that one has a meaning – several actually here in the South, none of them nice.)

And never freaking mind, that I am actually anti-label.

I am pro-everybody.

I make my decisions about people based on a case by case system. I do not care if you a Black, Brown, Yellow, Green, made of Silicon, gay, straight, bi, asexual, Coke, Pepsi, Nascar, Indycar, Football, Rugby, Soccer, Democrat or Republican, Hillary or Trump, God or Spaghetti Monster or Carl Sagan, neurotypical or atypical, criminal or cop.

I judge people by how they behave toward me and toward other people. I have friends that cover most of the races, religions, and creeds that you can label.

If I am prejudiced it’s against assholes. I can’t tolerate assholes. And, no, being a minority or a “Special person” does not exempt you from being an asshole any more than being rich and privileged does, okay?


Why, because in a moment of weakness I was worried about how that would be perceived.

Seriously. Seriously?!?

I was worried the redneck in the stacked truck would think I was a “n-lover”. I was afraid the Black recipient would think I was giving due to White guilt. I was afraid the hipster on the corner watching all this with ironic cool would think I was “colorblind”. I was afraid the racist Christians would think me a sinner and the non-racist Christians would think the same.

Fortunately for me, I parked my damn car, went over to the booth and gave the delightful young African American, Black, woman of color, – you choose a label – her name was Jolyka – some money for her charity.

The fact that I hesitated at all that was wrong. It’s one of the big things wrong with America today. People are people are people despite our culture, our biases, our idiocies. They are never ever things.

It was good to meet you, Jolyka.

Take care.


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