I have questioned my heritage before. As a child, I have held cardboard packaged lunches at a higher standard than my parent’s cooking. I have pretended my thick accent was an evil placed upon me by the universe. I have acted as if I didn’t know Spanish. I felt that I had to erase my heritage in order to fit the image that I saw everyday. In the television, movies. Everyday, an image that was not mine. So I tried to fit in. And everyone around me tried to do the same. Some were successful. They erased their roots.
But I did not succeed.
As I grew older, I started to appreciate my skin. My voice. The way my tongue can’t wrap itself around certain words. My sound. A memory of my past. Anything that connected me to the country that I can no longer relate to but that I still call home. Too many nights spent under a foreign sky that does not fully accept the color of my skin nor the sound of my voice but still takes my accomplishments and calls it their own. Because at the end, who do I belong to? To the country that I was born in or the one in which I was raised. If the years are now tipping towards the land that does not accept me, does that make me an outsider? If the years back in my land are dwindling, will I ever be able to go back? In both countries, I am considered a foreigner, an outsider. If I belong to none, who am I?
And then it unfolds.
A blast of yellow, of red, of light. Jean-Michel Basquiat, who wrote in three languages to remind you he mastered more than one. Who painted black men to remind you he was one. Who rose above it all despite the odds. I see his art and I see hope. He painted his heritage onto a blank canvas. A theme that we are the same even though we are not treated as such. That this country belongs to us as much as the next person. And I could be over-analyzing into his work. But the fact remains. He was a black man who knew he was black and never pretended to be otherwise. In my eyes that is courage. In my eyes that is love.
He is color, and so am I.