In the 9th grade a teacher made several points to call me out in front of the class for mistakes I’d made. Often times they were in essays she would be correcting at the time and I distinctly remember once her asking me about a grammatical mistake I had made, I had written “see’s” intending to say “sees”. It was a simple mistake but she made such a huge fuss over it….asking me things like “Does see belong to anything? Why would you put an apostrophe there?” and I just answered with an “I don’t know”. She failed to ask or recognize that English is not my first language nor was it my most commonly spoken language at home. So no, my English isn’t perfect and I frequently make mistakes and I’m not always sure to fix them but I don’t see why I needed to feel humiliated for them.
This week, I’ve been working with a group on campus and we put up a display for the “Death of Diversity” replying to the conversations that have been occurring or continue to occur across campus related to how many students of color there are. The number is slim and with an ongoing search for a new diversity director, we’re hoping change isn’t too far away. I really struggle with this though. For this display we made letters or poems or anything we wanted to answer the question “What is it like to be a student of color on campus?” and I had to go and ask the club president whom I’m good friends with, whether or not I’m a student of color.
That’s really tough though because I am a Latina. I’m the first-born child to immigrant parents. I’m a first-gen college student, heck I’m a first-gen high school graduate. I don’t know how to really navigate this world because it’s entirely different than the world my parent’s grew up and lived in for a long time. I face a lot of self-consciousness because I don’t want to speak up sometimes because I fear retribution from my Latino peers for perhaps saying something they think I have no right to talk about and I don’t know what to say around my white peers who I don’t have a lot in common with most of the time. I’m stuck in between two worlds and unsure if there’s a bridge I have to make or if it’s just a swinging vine that I can sway side-to-side from.
I know many other students across the nation are probably facing similar issues right now because the issue of race is an important and currently, a very publicly criticized subject. Some of these students might be mixed-race or they might just have a weird gene mutation or be an improbable result of two Latino parents such as I am. So what can we do? What are we doing?
I know there’s far too many people who face bullying for their skin color or lack there of because they don’t fit into the groups that they feel they belong to. Being in the middle is a very precarious line to walk when you’re unsure of who you can have honest conversations with or when you’re trying to gauge what your stance is on the issue of race because as “white-passing” students of color I think we have the very rare opportunity to see the experiences from both sides. We see intimate details of our family member’s lives and the oppression they face based on pigment-based judgement and we also benefit from white privilege often times even though that doesn’t usually apply to all areas such as economics.
For example, I’m proud to be Latina and whenever I would apply for jobs I would always check the box that said ‘Yes I identify as Hispanic/Latino(a)’ and with that I would include what I thought was helpful information. I’d list “Bilingual. Speak, read, and write fluent Spanish and English” as one of my skills. I never thought that this would be detrimental to my job opportunities until someone pointed it out to me that white people who are bilingual are more likely to be hired than people of any other race who list themselves as bilingual and include their native tongue as a one of the languages they speak. That shocked me because I still learned two languages, I grew up speaking two languages and managed quite well to master them both. But it proves the idea that learning something foreign is much more accepted than being foreign or brought up in a foreign culture. Which could explain why I never received many interviews or call-backs.
But what we can do is bring attention to situations where we see someone receiving unfair treatment, such as the great example shown here
This video reached me yesterday and made me realize that there are some things I can say and use my white privilege for the advantage of my Latino friends and family. Unfortunately, my voice will probably be heard more than theirs and I can use that to help the rest of my Hispanic/Latino peers to finally have a voice that will be heard and appreciated.
This is clearly a dear issue to me and I’m not done completing my thoughts but for now, I think it’s important to take away that while I may not like the assumptions people make of me based on my skin color, I can definitely do something with that so that my people and all people of color don’t have to face the discrimination and horrors they do on a daily basis. It’s time to create changes, it’s time to let all our voices be heard with no fear of sounding “rude”, “angry”, or “dumb”.
Leave me your thoughts, questions, comments, etc down below in the doobly-doo. I would sincerely LOVE to hear from you.
Please join me in the fight for equality for all. This is the generation of change.