When I Recognized Race: Alejandra Hargrave

by | Jan 19, 2021

I was born in El Salvador to an American father and a Salvadoran mother. I grew up aware of racial differences from a very young age because I recognized race affected how people treated my family and me. People would assume that my sister and I are not fully related because her skin is much lighter than mine, and people would treat my mother differently because she speaks English with a strong accent. I was fortunate because I could adjust to American culture pretty easily even though I didn’t always feel at home in the United States—and I still often felt like I do not belong. I recall various instances that made me feel like an outsider. One of these instances, filling out a form asking about race, is one that I have not forgotten to this day.

The first time I had to fill in a form that required me to select a race was strange for me. I was at a doctor’s office with my mother and was filling in the information they requested. I remember being confused about what choice to select for race since I felt like none of the options seemed to apply to me. I asked my mom what to select, and she said, “Just put white,” and I remember, in my innocence, replying to her and saying, “Pero soy café” (“But I am brown”). My mother just told me that none of the other options applied to me, so I had to choose white. I didn’t fully understand what race meant at the time and did not understand why I was choosing something that didn’t apply to me. I have had to fill in many forms since that moment, and every time I do I hesitate and wonder which option to choose.

Studies have shown that many Hispanics feel that same confusion, a fact highlighted by the fact that many will choose “Other” when filling in this information. A study by the Pew Research Center actually found that two-thirds of Hispanics feel that their Hispanic background is also part of their racial background. The nuances and details of determining race versus ethnicity and defining what should qualify as race are beyond me, but I want to highlight how a simple form can make Hispanics feel excluded and confused. It may seem like a small thing, but when you are filling out a census form and you feel like your race isn’t accurately represented, it can cause some unease.

Before I was a Christian, forms like this and my attempts to figure out my identity as a Hispanic-American were anxiety-inducing. I never quite felt at home in the United States because I thought there was a lot about being American that I did not understand. Many people assumed that because my father is American, I must feel just as comfortable in the United States as I did in Latin America, but this was not true. I know I am not the only Hispanic person in the United States that struggles to always feel at home, especially in a country that doesn’t always understand Hispanic culture.

However, now, as a Christian, the anxiety and confusion that I sometimes feel as a Hispanic-American living in the United States is much easier to manage. I know that a box on a form does not define me, rather I am defined by my identity in Christ. I am Hispanic, and American, but I am Christ’s first. John 1:12 says “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” and I find such reassurance in this. I am a child of God; no form can take that away from me. There is comfort and freedom in knowing that even though a form may not accurately represent me, my identity is defined by something far beyond a piece of paper…Christ.

 


Prayer Requests:

  1. Pray for those that have experienced discrimination because of their race.
  2. Pray that those who are struggling to find their identity will find it in Christ.
  3. Pray that Christians will strive to be inclusive of races, ethnicities, and cultures that are not their own.

 

Recent POdcasts

Transracial Adoption with Brittany Salmon

Transracial Adoption with Brittany Salmon

Transracial Adoption Brittany Salmon is a scholar and author of It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption (Moody, 2022). She is also the adoptive mother to three children...

read more
Biblical Theology: Minor Prophets | God’s Mercy

Biblical Theology: Minor Prophets | God’s Mercy

Biblical Theology: Minor Prophets | God's Mercy We're back in our Bible study series with Adrianna Anderson. Today we look at the minor prophets, where we see a fuller picture of God's mercy to His people, Israel, and to the nations. There are plenty of sober warnings...

read more

Upcoming Events

Isaac-Adams-United-We-Pray-speaking-at-an-event

Click Here to View Now

Recent Articles

Gospel Hope Creates Space for Lament

Gospel Hope Creates Space for Lament

I’ve noticed some strange behavior from some friends of mine. It has come up in several different relationships over the last few years. They are all intelligent, successful, and pretty happy people. I love them dearly. But these friends are not Christians.  The thing...

read more
Confidence in the Wrong Place

Confidence in the Wrong Place

In 1908, G.K. Chesterton warned Christian readers that various influences were eroding society’s ability to learn:  But what we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. . . . A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this...

read more
Memorial Day: Remembering vs. Not Forgetting

Memorial Day: Remembering vs. Not Forgetting

What’s the difference between remembering and not forgetting? That’s the question I started asking myself as I thought about Memorial Day. I forget an awful lot of things. For example: usernames and passwords. Ever forget either of these (don’t say you forget both) to...

read more

We’d love to hear what you think about this article. Submit your feedback by clicking here to contact us.

Author

  • Alejandra Hargrave

    Alejandra Hargrave and her husband Jacob are members of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. Alejandra works for a non-profit doing democracy and governance work in Latin America and the Caribbean. Alejandra has an undergraduate degree in Business Economics from the University of Exeter in England and a Masters Degree in International Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is currently a student at the Southern Baptist Seminary where she is pursuing a M.A. in Biblical Counseling.

Related Articles

Stay Connected