Friday, October 17, 2008

Now you see me, now you don't

Last weekend I travelled to Iowa and canvassed for Barack Obama's campaign. I ended up being assigned a pretty Democratic neighborhood of elderly people. About half the people I talked to were either supporting Obama or were leaning towards Obama. Only a few said that no, they weren't supporting him.

I gave out handfuls of "Iowan for Obama" buttons and even wore one, so as to seem more familiar. The bus on which I travelled had only a few people of color. Most of the canvassers from the Democratic Party headquarters of Evanston, Illinois were white. I wonder if it matters to people, the color of the person who is asking if they support Barack Obama.

In general, I think some people see me as Latina and some people see me as white. At least one of the elderly white Iowans I talked to assumed I was white. I believe this happens because many Americans boil down the whole multi-cultural America thing to black and white. Some people look at me and figure that since I don't seem black, I must be white. Hispanic doesn't seem to enter into it.

It's very strange to me because at other times, people will say to me, "Where are you from?" When I tell them I'm originally from California, they ask, "Where are your parents from?" When I tell them my parents are from Texas, they realize they need to ask a more direct question, but every time I have one of these exchanges, it confirms to me that I don't look white. At least, not all the time. But since at other times, people do think I'm white, I guess it's a matter of context. It's the kind of white privilege that comes and goes, the kind of ethnicity that is sometimes there and sometimes not.

No comments: