"Where are you from? Are you Muslim?"
Teresa Puente was waiting to board a plane in Chicago the other day when a fellow passenger asked her this sudden question about her faith.
The question was accompanied by a glare, Puente says.
"I replied 'No, I'm Mexican.' And then I realized, oh no, actually I've moved from one group reviled by Donald Trump, Muslims, to another, Mexicans," she says.
With the rise of presidential contender Trump, Puente, who has brown skin and dark wavy hair, says the random questions about her origins have become more commonplace, and more unsettling.
"I feel like it's increasing not just for me but other people who don't meet the stereotype of what it means to be an American," she says. "People like myself — who are American-born — have to explain ourselves."
Puente teaches at Columbia College in Chicago and recently wrote about her identity burden in Time magazine.
"I've faced these questions my whole life — and now with Trump the questions just increase, 'What are you and who are you?'"
Puente cited a recent incident in South Carolina where students at McDowell High School built a wall made of cardboard boxes and blocked access to a common area at their school. A photo the students posted on Instagram was captioned, "We built the wall first," and featured at its center a student wearing a Trump T-shirt.
In response to the hostile climate, Puente calls for "flipping the script."
"I can own that I'm American, I can own that I'm Mexican," she says. "Mexican is not a dirty word."
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