Race Against Humanity

The day I started middle school, a boy that I had just met, who was white, asked how old my mom was because she was so “hot” and young looking. When I told him her age, he processed the age at which she had me, 18 years old, and said, “Figures. All Mexicans do is get pregnant and drop out of school”. This upset me to the point that every time a person asked how old my parents were, I would just ignore them. I didn’t want people to think poorly of my parents, considering the fact that they are both college graduates and hard working people. Even though I was proud of them, I didn’t want people to assume that about me too. People have always commented on the fact that my parents had me when they were 18, mostly with “wows” and playing the Hispanic card. I never fully comprehended their shock until I entered middle school and was experiencing first hand the opinions and stereotypes of different races from my peers.

Going into a new school, I was aware that there were a large number of white children my age, which I never experienced at my elementary school. My elementary school was located in a part of my town that was referred to as “The Hill”, on the east side of town. The Hill was known for its large number of gang violence, deaths, and the number of black and Hispanic people that populated that neighborhood. So, naturally, the majority of my friends were either black or Hispanic. I didn’t start having white friends until middle school because that school was located on the west side, the “good side of town”.

On the east side, it was pretty much a norm to have young parents if you were black or Hispanic, maybe even if you were one of the few white families. It was even normal to have parents that were Mexican immigrants, especially illegal ones. although my parents did not personally immigrate from Mexico, I was still used to and pretty accepting that some kids did have parents that were illegal immigrants. So attending my elementary school, I felt as if I was in my element with kids and families just like mine. Kids, or parents, never questioned me about the jobs my parents had or what age they had me. However, moving to a school that was on the west side, I was definitely taken out of my comfort zone. Sure, I still had a lot of the same kids that I went to elementary school with at my new school, but there was also a lot more white kids than I was used to. When I started to meet new kids, teachers, and even parents, I got that “wow” effect when talking about my parents and my background. In my neighborhood, I never really got a reaction from people when talking about that because it was, for the most part, normal. But this new diversity of white kids, teachers, and parents opened my eyes to what a lot of people: black, white, indian, whichever, thought about Hispanics. I always thought to myself, “So what if I have young parents? They’re just as loving and hardworking as any other parent out there”. Later I realized that these comments and shocks weren’t personal, they were just stereotypes. However, that didn’t make the situation any better. I was still being judged and generalized by ignorant people that assume the worst of others because of where they come from. By realizing this I learned to not care if people had rude comments to make about me or my family. I became confident in talking about my life because I know that I have a lot to be proud of and ignorant comments weren’t going to change anything.

There is so much ignorance when it comes to race, and quite frankly, I don’t think that will ever change. There’s always a need to categorize people in order to justify behavior. However, that goes wrong once the actions of a few generalize the stereotypes of many. I don’t want to be seen and labeled as my race, I want to be noticed for the good I do and what I achieve, no matter my ethnicity or family background.

[Photo, Formato Cuadrado by Eneas De Troya, licensed under CC by 2.0)

[Photo, Anti-Racism Rally London 2015–04 by Gary Knight, licensed under CC by 2.0]

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