Monday, July 22, 2013

Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but Racial Slurs cut deep

Today I've had something on my mind that has really been bothering me. I'm sure you have noticed by my photos, that I am brown. I am American, born and raised, and like almost every person I know, my ancestors were not from here. They came here from Japan and Mexico. I didn't have a very cultural upbringing. I don't speak Spanish or Japanese, and I would say that we are an extremely Americanized family. I grew up in Southern California, and I don't recall being singled out for my race, which is probably because it is a very diverse area. I love Oregon, I really do, but I have had many experiences here where I have been discriminated against because I am Mexican. 

On the first day for work at my first job here, my manager came up to me and loudly said, "Do you speak English good?!" 

My response was, "I speak it well"

I always joke about that story, but I know that he shouldn't have spoken to me that way. He was speaking down to me and it wasn't okay. 

Since then, there have been many small things. It's not uncommon for people to speak badly about Mexicans in front of me like it's okay. I get to hear jokes about how my race is lazy, stupid, ghetto, alcoholics, all work in low paying jobs (because we are all gardeners ya know!), most are in gangs, all collect state benefits, oh and if you have a Hispanic last name you are definitely illegal, just read the comments on random news articles. There are just way to many to list. I don't hear as much about my Japanese side, just things like we're all smart, can't drive, and a couple other stupid things. I once had someone go as far as to tell me that I am lucky that I am Asian and Mexican because the smart and dumb balance out. It was supposed to be funny, but it's not. My level of intelligence has nothing to do with my race, I know some pretty smart Mexicans and some not as smart Asians. I know that my experiences have been  minor compared to what some have to deal with, but I just don't understand why anyone has to. We are all people, and the color of our skin is not what defines us.

Last weekend I got to have one of those special experiences, but the part that shocked me about this was that I was amongst "friends". I was at a BBQ with my fiance. We were all having a good time chatting in the back yard when one guy decides to start talking about Mexicans in a negative way. It's happened before too many times. I don't know what to do when it does, so I usually just walk away. That's what I did. Quite a while later, I was talking to someone and said that I don't mind having to press 1 for English. I don't speak Spanish, but many people here in the US do. What is wrong with accommodating that?

Well, maybe that comment ticked off a woman who I have thought of as my friend for the last 5 years because a bit later, out of no where she got very mean and called me 
"a little wetback". 

For those of you who have never heard of that term I copied this from Wikapedia:

Wetback is a derogatory term used in the United States for a non-American foreigner, commonly a Mexican citizen, especially one who is an illegal immigrant in the U.S. Generally used as an ethnic slur, the term was originally coined and applied only to Mexicans who entered the U.S. state of Texas from Mexico by crossing the Rio Grande, which forms the border between Texas and Mexico, presumably by swimming or wading across the river and getting wet in the process.

It's the equivalent to calling a black person the "N" word. 

I was mortified.

My face got hot and I was in shock. I really didn't know what to say, so I walked away. I tried to have fun, but it was in the back of my mind for the rest of the night. Today, I thought of it from the moment I woke up. I cried a little. I guess, what I don't understand is why someone who I thought was my friend would speak to me like that.

I realize that racism happens everyday to many people with no race exempt, and that is the problem. In the past I have stayed silent, but I'm not going to anymore. I am Mexican Japanese American and I am damn proud of that. Being Hispanic is not a negative thing. I am not inferior to you, and your derogatory comments and degrading stereotypes will only make you look like the lesser person. It's not okay to talk negatively about people of different races, even if you think you are being funny. Maybe you are someone who does this and you don't realize it, but it hurts. So please, think before you let that racial slur come out of your mouth. 

I have made this a priority topic in our home lately. I tell my daughter that some people treat others differently because of the color of their skin, their beliefs, or who they love. I am so blessed to have such a kind hearted girl who just doesn't understand why anyone would do this. I just pray to God that she never has to experience it.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hopefully someday...