I Feel Guilty for Being Able to ‘Pass’ as a Person of Color

I Feel Guilty for Being Able to ‘Pass’ as a Person of Color


Elana Rabinowitz
Brooklyn, New York

He called me negra. Not mami or guapa, but what translates to “black woman.” I wasn’t offended. More confused. The thing is, I’m really just a white Jewish girl from Brooklyn. There, I said it.

Junot Diaz came to give a book talk and I was awestruck by the man who stood in front of me, waxing poetically in a black hoodie sweatshirt. Would that have been the time to correct a genius? Oh, I am sorry, Junot, I’m actually just another Jewish girl from Brooklyn. I balked.

My last name is Rabinowitz, and with a name like that, and a life like mine, I’ve had my share of jokes and stereotypes, but never anything I couldn’t handle. The more interesting paradox is that the hue of my skin and the positioning of my features has often made me appear more Hispanic than anything else. After a while you get used to it, and eventually, I even started to believe it. I lived and studied in Ecuador, Argentina, and Mexico. Each trip I returned home with more mannerisms and vocabulary inadvertently adding to my new identity…

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