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Opinion: Looking white, feeling brown: the dilemma of a mixed race voter


Columnist Ben Solis

The new American experience for some mixed-race kids means looking pale and feeling brown, but never both at the same time. It means holding two sets of values that are constantly in conflict.

Puerto Rican. Mexican. Slovak. Three parts of a whole that fit together only when I identify as “Ben.” 

In an election year, this American is torn asunder. Torn at the seams by an existential struggle between community and national self interest. 

If we want to unify as Americans, during this cycle and after another man — or woman — is elected president, we must realize the tough choices at hand for mixed race and multiple minority voters. We must not question their resolve or standing in a certain community because they voted against their hereditary lines.

As mixed-race voters look at the issues of 2016, they are faced with both opportunity and vulgarity. One contingent foams at the mouth for Donald Trump and his invocations of white supremacy. 

Factor in criminal justice reform, and the vote boils down to black, brown and poor vs. white and elite. The decision is muddled even further with minorities from both parties on the ballot.

This year offered two potentials for the first Latino president; the first Jewish commander in chief; a second Black head of state; the shattering of glass ceilings by electing the first female executive.

Living and voting as a multiple minority like myself is now an existential crisis. It defies party politics, and at every turn, allegiance to your category is scrutinized without question.

As a feminist ally, I’m damned for voting Bernie. As a third-generation Hispanic, I’m damned for not supporting my Cuban brethren. By ignoring Ben Carson, I’m halting the Republican alternative to President Barack Obama.

Choosing between my beliefs as a left-leaning moderate and my race feels like soul suicide. Even worse is the ostracization I feel from either side by not sticking up for the cultures I belong to, and those I have assimilated. 

As a suburban kid with a white mother and a dark father from a rough part of Cleveland, my cultural connections run deeper than a three-piece puzzle. Before social media, these discussions were shared by word of mouth, news media and mailers.

Now, hordes of angry culturalists can attack from all sides without one ounce of empathy for the struggle of a mixed race voter. If both my grandfathers were alive —who came to this country speaking no English, and self-educating their way toward prosperity — they’d want me to vote with my heart and mind, and not my racial or gender identity.

I am three parts of a whole that fit better when I identify only as myself, and I know my country is stronger when I vote accordingly.


About Ben Solis

Ben Solis is the Managing Editor of Central Michigan Life. He has served as a city and university ...

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