Photo by Isa Grofsorean edited by Isa Condo-Olvera
What It’s Like to be a White Latina on an Uber Ride in Oklahoma
You’re eighteen, this is your first trip you’ve ever done entirely by yourself, you’re in a country that is not your own, and following your dreams and auditioning for colleges has led you to… Oklahoma City.
So you arrive at the airport, and you call an Uber to your hotel. As soon as you get in, you notice an elderly couple with thick accents and brown skin talking next to your Uber.
The driver notices them too. He’s a crusty white man, with spots and creases and bitterness all over his face.
So, what does a crusty old white man with spots and creases and bitterness all over his face do when he sees an elderly couple that is brown and has accents?
He screams at them.
He opens the window, and shouts Go back to your country Beaners and a bunch of other very racist xenophobic shit that you can’t even process because all you can hear is this crusty old white man screaming and your heart pounding and his rickety old car engine rumbling. You feel the tears fighting to escape from your eyes and a knot in your stomach and your jaw tensing, but you swallow your fury because you are in this man’s car and you are just barely an adult. And he hates Mexicans.
And you’re Mexican – or, your mom’s Mexican. You are actually Costa Rican. And your dad’s Ecuadorian. But for this man, those differences don’t really matter, all of that equates to: Mexican. Anything south of the US is Mexico. Fuck, it looks like for this man anyone in the global majority is Mexican.
But, he doesn’t know that you are actually Mexican.
Because your mom named you Isabella, which has become a very mainstream baby name everywhere. Because your mom gave you her white skin. Because your mom made sure you learned English when you were young, so you’re able to sound like it’s your first language and you’re just another white American girl. So none of that hints that you are what he hates.
And that is what you hold onto, as you ride with this crusty old white man in his car, terrified, but protected by your privilege.
And you succeed. The man never finds out. He drops you off at your hotel. You get in, you go to the bathroom because you need to pee, and you just start sobbing on the toilet.
Because that day would’ve been very different for your brother, or your dad, that don’t look like you. Maybe your mother and stepmother might be okay? If they kept their mouth shut they might be, but with just a word he would know.
So you should be grateful it’s you. And you are grateful.
Because to this crusty old white man you were a sweet little white American girl. Even though the bloodshed of colonization flows through your veins – white and indigenous – colonizers and colonized. You may not have your dad’s brown skin, but you have his nose and his lips and his bones. Your breasts are your Ecuadorian grandmother’s. Your hips are your Mexican mother’s. And you hold the possibility of trills in your tongue, but they hide behind your seemingly American accent.
So you’re safe because you hide who you are, and you pass because you’re able to hide, and also because there is something to hide.
You pass, and it saves you.
Isa Condo-Olvera (she/her) is a passionate Costa Rican actor, singer, and writer currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Born and raised in San Jose, Costa Rica to an Ecuadorian dad and a Mexican mom, Isa was always intensely fascinated with storytelling. Her poetry has been published in Fruit Journal and Mixed Mag, and she is currently in the process of developing her first play, a verbatim piece titled “¿love?”, first performed this February at UMN Guthrie’s Free Play Festival.