Who Am I?
Labels, labels, labels….we love them! They give us a quick and easy way to categorize ourselves and others in this often chaotic, disorganized world that we live in. For some, labels are something that gives us meaning or purpose. Labels may be something that we find set us back, or something that we need to learn to overcome. And whether we like it or not, we will always find a way to label ourselves or be labeled by others.
Among other things, my labels include: male, gay, Methodist, reconciling, first-born, American, brother, recovering co-dependent, son, New Yorker, artist, and Puerto Rican. I am a combination of both related and sometimes combative labels. And inside I can feel the beautiful and sometimes painful tension that comes with being this mix of labels. But who am I, really?
I remember growing up in suburban South Florida before it had become an area largely populated by Latinos. I went to school in my very white, upper-middle-class suburb and found that some of my schoolmates were genuinely confused by my appearance. I can’t tell you the number of times that I had other students come up to me and ask me some variation of “So, are you black, or are you white?” I remember how strange that questions made me feel. I wasn’t black. I wasn’t white. I was brown, and I lived in a home where we spoke English and Spanish. I was different, and at the time my peers at school didn’t have the right label to put on me.
One of the first times this question was asked to me, I came home visibly upset and cried to my mother. She took me in her arms and explained to me what we were, which was neither black, nor white, but something else beautiful: we were Puerto Rican. She explained to me a brief history of Puerto Rico–the native Taino Indians who called the island Boriken, the colonization by the Spanish, the eventual US ownership after wars and resistance–and affirmed that this was part of my story as well. And although we no longer live on that island, we carry its history and rich traditions with us in who we are and what we do.
So I carried my Puerto Rican label proudly among the other labels I had started to discover in my early life. Yet even with this and all the other labels that I carry with me, the core of my being still wonders, “who am I, really?” The apostle Paul writes a passage in Galatians that both answers and asks this question for me:
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” – Galatians 3:28-29
I am all of these things. I am none of these things. I am a beloved child of God. I am one with my sisters and brothers. We all share in God’s promises.
As we celebrate the culmination of Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month this Sunday at church, may we be mindful of the fact that we are all truly one.
Please join us at the Church of the Village on Sunday, October 13th as we hold a grand celebration for the culmination National Hispanic Heritage Month.