A Rose by Any Other Name…

Colorblind – A glimpse into race in the U.S. and abroad is a new API blog series that looks at racial issues and concerns faced by API students and staff abroad. This post is by API Granada alumna Sarah Webb.

Sarah taking on Paris

What’s in a name? Names are used to distinguish people and things from one another, but what if someone calls you a name that you don’t think is actually yours? Over the years our country has taken countless strides to become more accepting, inclusive, and affirming but where should we draw the line? Political correctness has become more prevalent in an effort to be (or sometimes just to “seem”) less offensive, but where do we draw the line and who gets to draw it? Have you ever been called something that was offensive to you? In a time when the TV show “GLEE” rules, terms like Jock, Nerd, Diva, and even brownnoser are commonplace. However, when it comes to terms that name and try to define race, the line becomes a little hazier.

I, myself prefer to be called black, while other individuals in my race prefer the term African-American. Conversely, during my mother’s lifetime the term Afro-American was more widely used, and terms like Negro, Colored and even Mulatto were standard designations during my grandmother’s lifetime. But what is in a name? I asked myself that after a particularly uncomfortable conversation with my senora. Another host mother had asked her whether or not she was in fact hosting “La Negra.” My host mother confirmed and was more than happy to boast about on how great our first few weeks were going. However, when I heard myself being referred to as “La Negra” during her story I was totally caught off guard. “Negra?” That sounded a little too close to that other “N” word used back in the states… but it’s just a word right? Right. But I realized it wasn’t the word itself that made me feel so uncomfortable, it was the negative connotation associated with that word. As a Black American I knew my point of view, but I decided to take the time to consider it from her point of view. I realized that there really wasn’t another descriptor to refer to a Black person’s race in Spain. Negro literally means black in Spanish, and as someone who calls themselves “Black” I determined that Negra didn’t seem so hurtful or even out of line anymore. In fact, I started to like it… “La Negra”… hmm… kinda exotic.

A name can represent many things; who I am, where I come from, or even how I look or act. Furthermore, since my study abroad experience I have added a few more names to my repertoire; life learner, world traveler, and even global citizen. But whatever name I choose to call myself, I can always trust that this rose by any other name is still a rose.

Sarah Webb studied with API in Granada while a student at Kansas State University. Upon her return from Spain she served as an API Peer Mentor before joining the API Texas staff first as an intern, then as a Program Assistant/Program Manager. Sarah’s latest adventure will take her back to Spain to teach to elementary school children near Zaragoza. Check back for future posts!

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