Elaine Vilorio, a high school senior who is originally from the Dominican Republic, recently wrote a Huffington Post piece titled "Coming Out as Black."
It's not as if it was a big secret that she had African ancestry. Rather, Vilorio says, she simply wasn't raised in a way that encouraged focusing on it. When she stopped straightening her hair and started getting more questions, she was forced to ask herself what her heritage meant to her.
In a conversation about an experience that we're sure isn't at all unique, given the country's racial demographics, she talked to NPR about how she's beginning to make sense of her "Afro-decadency" and "Hispanic identity."
HEADLEE: First of all, let me ask you, why did you phrase it that way, coming out as black?
VILORIO: Well, people have always asked me, you know, like you said, you know, if I was black consistently, and I've always denied that. So I thought that was a very fitting way, a very dramatic way to say that I finally have admitted, you know, this Afro identity, so to speak, when it's always been there. Coming out, I finally can say it out loud, and I can finally explain to people, yes, I have African roots in me and that's okay.
HEADLEE: Well, when you talk about racial identity, it's something you've written about quite a bit as well.
HEADLEE: What is racial identity for you? Is it about the way you see yourself or how others see you?
VILORIO: I mean, it's a combination of both. I think people perceive me and they separate Afro-descendancy from, you know, the Hispanic identity. Hispanic identity doesn't really take into account that African racial root. You know, I see myself as a predominantly black Hispanic. And then other people, you know, they just see a mixed person, just mixed. Blackness isn't really, you know, acknowledged.
HEADLEE: You know, the Dominican Republic has kind of an uneasy relationship with race and …
HEADLEE: … and the darkness of one's skin. What did you learn about this issue, black versus Latina, during your time in the Dominican Republic?
Read more and listen to the entire interview at NPR.