As I’ve written before, I moved from El Salvador to Rhode Island in 2001 with my 2 kids. Their father is Salvadoran and they look an awful lot like him.
A few years after we moved, when my daughter Clare was about 7 years old, one of the checkout ladies at the supermarket we frequented said to me, “Your daughter is such a nice child. She’s always so helpful. Where did you get her?”
“Um,” I answered, a little confused, “…I gave birth to her?”
“Ooooohhhhhh! OK,” the lady said. “I thought you had adopted her from somewhere.”
I was annoyed with the lady, at first, for the assumptions she was making. I let it go, however, realizing that it didn’t really matter whether I had adopted my daughter or not. I would love her the same, regardless.
People often ask these kinds of questions without meaning any harm. They say things like “Oh, she’s your daughter? She doesn’t look like you. What is she?”
This question always stumps me. “What is she?” I know that people are asking about her ethnicity, but I find the phrasing odd. So I usually feign confusion or make a dumb joke like “Um, what is she? She’s…. a human?”
Clare is 17 now and she’s been getting into slam poetry. Here is her take on it.
An open letter to the woman at the grocery store that asked my mom “where she got me.”
Sitting on the shelf next to the Autocrat Coffee Syrup and the Del’s Lemonade.
I have made my place here.
I do not belong in the exotic fruits section. The Latin foods section.
It is not for you to decide where I call home.
The sticker on my forehead labeling me “IMPORTED” should not be the only thing you see about me.
I am also organic, fair trade original.
I am my own woman. Not a further perpetuation of the idea that the only way to have such an exotic being is to have taken it. As if to fill a space in your collection.
AND HERE WE HAVE CLARE RAMIREZ RAFTREE. ALL THE WAY FROM EL SALVADOR.
To those who ask, “What are you?”
I am anything I want to be.
(Published with Clare’s permission)