In societies where identity markers are so stubbornly embedded in social interactions, I wrestle with the everyday question of: “where are you from?” Not in the self-victimizing third-culture-kid sense that validates privilege but more in how do I defy this fascist norm that will categorize me regardless of the answer, one worse than the other? Hey I am brown and I am from white country. If it’s not “But you are not white” disguised in “But you don’t look Dutch”, the more pc response will be silence, an intriguing ‘hmmm…’ and the internal burden of “but why is he brown, goddamit!”. The latter I enjoy for I trouble the white man, and refuse to give into his white-supremacist views of national belongings. I thereby also undo the conflation of race and nationality, reclaiming Dutchness for what it normatively is not. I take that as subversion. Of course, the more anarchist me would say fuck you, I don’t believe in the legitimacy of the authority and the power structure and colonial history that this question embodies. But social norms have me imprisoned much like anyone else, and perhaps subtle subversion and transgression is more powerful (and safer) than direct confrontation in these cases.

Then again, it’s possible to point at a deliberate denial and (sub-conscious) self-hatred of my Ecuadorian roots, commonly associated with an inferior and backward ethnicity, culture and civilization. I thereby might be making instead a claim to whiteness (and thus civilization, superiority, etc) that I utterly (should) despise. This is most problematic when, say, I am in Egypt and an immediate, asymmetric power dynamic surfaces as a result. The other possible answer is thus the multi-cultural one that people love: “Dutch-Ecuadorian”. The usual answer “Oh my god, that’s an incredible mix” will follow. Yeah, don’t you love the (neo)colonialism and anti-Semitism that brought that about? Unfortunately, it’s the answer I am most comfortable with as I don’t betray either ethnic, national, power axis, it gets people normatively intrigued (and for the socially awkward, opportunistic me: keeps the conversation going), but yes, it gives me undeserving cool points. But worst, it also does not defy anything, nothing. My claim to whiteness also remains intact, keeping a balance between the civilized and exotic, known and unknown.

The last possible answer I have favored least, which I think really is telling of my own racial-bias, is saying I am simply Ecuadorian. While part of that has to do with conflicting identities and a personal past that has not favored this country in the best light, it is the immediate sense of how my subjectivity changes as I internalize the cultural, ethnic, racial, power inferiority that accompanies this answer, which anguishes me most. Am I then to blame for a racist self-hatred? Or rather am I concealing this identity/belonging/power axis for I don’t want to be put in that position of inferiority and (sexual) objectification produced and constructed by the white colonial man? Should I still want to defy it and say I am brown/Ecuadorian, renounce my claim to whiteness and assume the inferior position, only to retake power later?

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