8/28/2019 0 Comments
I'm Not Ketchup
Let's talk about race.
I'm also Scottish, Irish, English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, if memory serves, like 2% Neanderthal (but that part only expresses itself when I try to talk to women. Sorry about that, women).
I've been called "spic," "wetback," "white boy," "guero," and "asshole" (I earned the last one).
On stage and on screen, I've played Jewish, Mexican, Dominican, Chilean, Puerto Rican, generic white,* Nuyorican, Indian (from India), English, Spanish (with an English accent [because, as we all know, anyone from a time and place other than America Right Now had a modern Received Pronunciation English dialect]), a rat, a raccoon, a plant, and a bunch of other things I can't remember off the top of my head.
I'm brown in the summer, and fair in the winter (and certain parts of me are fair year-round. Again, I'm sorry, women).
So... what am I, then?
Am I Mexican enough to be playing Latino† roles? Am I white enough to be playing white roles? Am I Indian enough to be playing Indian roles?º I speak a little Spanish, but I'm not fluent, though the assumption consistently is that I am, or at least ought to be (insert the stand-alone stage direction: "He mutters something in Spanish"). I grew up in a household without ofrendas or sugar skulls and in which we spoke exclusively English, but my family reunions were filled with mariachis, thousands of hand-made tamales, and tíos y tías hablando en español. And on the flip side, my dad, brother, and I attend the Scottish games every year and hang out in the Clan Mackintosh tent along with other descendants of the same historical bloodline.
So what – I ask again – precisely am I, then?
Here's how I try to look at it:
I'm a sassy-ass straight boy who makes and cracks whips, does stunts, sings tenor (though please, for the love of Dionysus, cast me in some baritone roles once in a while), works out a lot, pretends to be other people for money, occasionally does drag, turns heads at karaoke bars in the Midwest, has a lot of feelings, loves a glass of good whiskey, will go to the mat on behalf of his brother in a heartbeat, has no tolerance for intolerance, can ROCK a moustache, spells "moustache" with a "-u-" and "theatre" with an "-re" because it feels fancy, and also happens to be Mexican, Scottish, Irish, English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and, if memory serves, like 2% Neanderthal (women... I can't express this enough... I'm so sorry).
It's all PART of who I am, but it isn't Who I Am.
So, sorry not sorry; I don't come with an easy-to-read label. I'm not ketchup.§ I'm Andrew Joseph Perez and you don't get to box me in because I'd be easier to comprehend if I were just one thing.
That said, if you're ever nervous when you're talking to – or about – me, or anyone else whose race / identity / whatever you're not sure of, here's the best thing to do:
(I know this is gonna sound crazy, but here it is anyway...)
Now, don't say: "So.......... what....... ARE you?" That's rude. Also don't say: "Where are you [or 'where is your family'] from?" unless you REALLY want to get a sassy retort intended to make you feel exactly as accidentally racist as you're being.
But just ask. "Hey, I'm curious and I want to get this right; what's your ethnic makeup?" or some such.
Race is confusing. And complicated. And it's a sensitive subject, so we've got to be sensitive when approaching and discussing it. People of certain races have been historically and systematically oppressed by people of other races since the dawn of human civilization; we're tribal creatures with a biological imperative to separate the us's from the them's, and, as a result, nowadays, a lot of assumptions get made on both sides of those divides. Sure, there are genetic traits that express themselves consistently throughout generations of homogenous groups, and so those traits can act as indicators that an individual has ancestors that lived in this or that part of the world (Elizabeth Warren knows a lot about this, but I think there are more pressing things to ask her about right now), but at the end of the day, we're all humans and we all have to live here. So before you try to pigeonhole anyone as X or Y, take a second to think about one of my favorite classic jokes, and remember how much it sucks to be known as only one thing out of the myriad things that make you YOU.
Most of the time, when you cry, no one sees your tears...
When you hurt, no one sees your pain...
When you're happy, no one sees your smile...
But you fart just one time...
*For real, though: when do we say "White" and when do we say "white?" This is perplexing to me and I would appreciate assistance.
†Again, the "Latino / Hispanic" thing is a conversation for another post.
**Never "Drew" (except when I was a child dressed as a cowboy, at which time I was referred to exclusively as "Cowboy Drew") nor "Andy" (except by my late grandfather, and the Artistic Director of Capital Stage in Sacramento).
§More on ketchup later, too.
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