Dear White Person Who Just Found Out I’m Puerto Rican,

I’m Puerto Rican, and that’s going to come up in conversation with me. The reveal could look like a few different things, including an anecdote about my father, a comment about race, or a warning for you to stop saying the thing you’re about to say about Latinos. I might say it because you tell me I look exotic and are curious about my background. I might also mention it because it’s el elefante in the room—I know you know I’m something, and you want to know what that something is. So here it is: I’m Puerto Rican.

My mother is Jewish, of Eastern European descent, and was raised in the Bronx. My father was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City when he was ten years old. I identify as Latinx. When I tell you this, please don’t ask me why. I just do. I have a Latinx first name and surname. I had an abuela. I get tan in the sun, not burned. And I’m a single mother of three children. Isn’t that enough for you?

Please don’t nod approvingly when I tell you about my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s side of the family is simply my mother’s side of the family and not a mitigating factor of my Puerto Rican-ness. If you must think to yourself “Well, at least you have that,” please refrain from saying it out loud (yes, that’s happened). Don’t triumphantly tell me I’m only half Puerto Rican, as if informing me that I won a housing lottery and will soon be renting a two-bedroom apartment in a fashionable area of Brooklyn for $1,500 a month.

I don’t care that you had no idea I was Puerto Rican, and I also don’t need to know what ethnicity you think I look like that’s not Puerto Rican. Please don’t say, “But I thought you were Italian” in the same tone as telling me you thought I was ten years younger than my actual age. Don’t tell me you think I’m “exotic” in lieu of appearing Puerto Rican, i.e., “Well, you just look exotic to me.” I don’t need to know you think I could “pass for anything” or that my skin tone is “light.” I also don’t need you to free associate and immediately come up with a vague reference to anything or anyone Latinx, such as that you’re a Salma Hayek fan, loved West Side Story, or had a childhood friend from Colombia whose mother was an incredible cook.

Please don’t make jokes about Puerto Ricans and then tell me I’m “different” and therefore the joke is not applicable to me. Please don’t express fear of Puerto Ricans and then tell me I’m “different” and therefore you are not, in fact, afraid of me. The truth is you should be afraid of me. My being Puerto Rican is only partly the reason why.

My Spanish is shit. Don’t ask me about my Spanish and then tell me I’m “not a real Puerto Rican,” because I don’t speak Spanish. My father and my abuela are gone and I no longer live next to a Puerto Rican family, as I did fifteen years ago. No one else gives a shit about me speaking Spanish. You might even say that teaching me to learn Spanish was low on my father’s list of priorities because he was looked down upon for being Puerto Rican. “Everyone wanted me to stop speaking Spanish,” he said to me when I was younger and asked him why I wasn’t bilingual.

Please don’t maintain, in a defensive tone or any other kind of tone, that you had no idea I was Puerto Rican and that, if you knew it once, you promptly forgot about it because of one of the above-mentioned mitigating factors, to wit: my mother is white, my Spanish is shit, or I “look Mediterranean.” Don’t say you don’t care about that stuff—you do. Don’t say “I didn’t know!” in the same way you’d say “I didn’t see anything!” if I had a nip slip at the beach. And finally, don’t say “I would never have guessed,” or imply that my being Puerto Rican is universally shocking to everyone. Other Latinx people immediately identify me as being Latinx. They even correctly identify me as specifically being Puerto Rican. I cannot remember a single instance where someone who was Latinx expressed surprise at my ethnicity.

In closing, I’d like to add that once you find out I’m Puerto Rican, that does not automatically make me a one-stop shop for Latinx-related information. I don’t know the population of San Juan or have a killer piña colada recipe, and I don’t usually sign my letters with any type of Spanish flair—but I’ll do it just this once, for you.