By Alejandra Rojas
I have seen this bumper sticker on multiple cars. “We are in America. Speak English.” Funny thing about it is that America consists of North America, South America and Central America, where more than 70 percent of the natives speak Spanish. Not to mention the United States of America was founded by immigrants.
Why is there so much prejudice in this country? I don’t want to launch into a history lesson. Everyone is an immigrant in one way or another, unless you are Native American. This would make us equal right?
Most of us believe that racism isn’t a problem in the U.S. You might want to consider various events such as slavery, Jim Crow laws, bans against the Irish, and recently the increase of Mexican immigration. I firmly believe that racism isn’t intentional. However, sometimes we don’t think before we speak.
A lot of people make it hard for someone else to fit in. Because I am Mexican-American, I have to work twice as hard to stay faithful to my race while fitting in with the white race. I always find myself in a pickle.
I’m not your typical Hispanic girl. Although I was born in Mexico, I was pretty much raised here. I never learned to read or write in Spanish. I didn’t have the traditional coming of age ceremony, known as the Quinceanera, and I dislike the traditional Mexican music.
This is why it’s so hard for me to fit in with the Mexican culture. Some Mexicans disliked me back in high school because they thought I was trying to be too American. In reality, I was just trying to be a normal high school student.
I was involved in the things that most Mexicans in my high school would never dream of being a part of such as sports and the newspaper staff. I went to pep rallies. They never demonstrated school spirit. I thought these things had nothing to do with race. Turns out they excluded themselves because they felt they were the minority. In reality they were the majority. If only they participated, they could see that they were just as entitled to being equal.
But I’m not all American either. I wasn’t born here. I don’t relate to true American people, which means I have to fight to fit in with them. I recently became a citizen, not only to fit in, but to have the same rights, such as voting. I did it to stand up for myself.
You might not think about it, but it’s hard to fight tears when someone says something that hurts your feelings about your own race. While eating ice cream at the local mall, an old man yelled at me and my family to stop speaking Spanish because we were in the U.S. How does someone recover from something like that after everyone stares at you? You can’t really do anything. All you can do is not think too much of it and move on.
I have made myself strong when it comes to dealing with racist jokes. I’m not as sensitive to some of the things people say. I’m used to it and think that people are being ignorant. I have had people assume that I don’t speak English because of the color of my skin. That’s okay. I let it slide. What do they know, right?
I don’t believe that racism should be tolerated, but it’s hard to tell someone that you don’t agree with something that was said because you fear that you might not be understood. I am a fairly quiet person. It is hard for me to let anyone know how I feel. I have learned that it is not okay to keep things to yourself. Racism is serious. There is a fine line between a simple joke and something that is inappropriate.
I’m not perfect either, I tend not to think sometimes and say things that are judgmental about a certain race. I think it’s funny at the time. But when I stop and clearly think about it, I know it’s wrong, yet I manage to do it anyway. We can’t stop ourselves from being judgmental. How we handle it and how we make other people feel should be in our control. We should begin by thinking about how equal we are in reality. We all have eyes, ears, legs and toes. So why should color matter?
Alejandra Rojas is a junior majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.