June 15, 2016

AMERICAN LIFE

All people are welcome to America, until those “people” are people of color - something important that I read off Twitter: the most annoying, yet addicting app out there.


If you haven’t yet noticed: I love talking about social and political issues. Most of the time I’m correct – while sometimes I’m not. We all make mistakes once in awhile – whether we like it or not. A few of my favorite (and that I have the most knowledge of) topics would be racism, or hate towards the LGBTQ+ community, those are 2 topics that are close to my heart because I’m a Mexican-American teenager who just so happens to be gay. Simple.

A couple weeks ago, on Saturday night, my flamboyant mother and I went out to a children’s party, where a traditional Mexican dance, that I thought was quite intriguing, was performed, but I was very confused as to what it was and why they were wearing [somewhat] scary, hand-painted masks. They were wearing velvet gowns, with colorful adornments that resembled of a Christmas tree. The energy was great. Everybody joined to dance with them. Except me – I’m bitter. 

That gave me racing thoughts about all those times that I’ve trying explaining to people (usually white) why it isn’t okay for them to cornrow their hair the way black people do, or why Coachella fashions shouldn’t include bindis or Native-American headdresses. I was basically a hypocrite. The only reason I would tell them was because they didn’t understand the meaning behind a bindi or headdress – yet here I am, not understanding my own culture, and trying my hardest to help other people keep the meaning to their culture. What does that say about me? That I’m a shallow, close-minded, typical “American” teenager?

Sometimes I do have to remind myself that I live in America: a country who successfully achieved stripping communities of people out of their own culture. That doesn’t mean that I’m blaming America, because I don’t. I blame myself for being so close-minded about my culture as a Mexican-American teenager. But it does play a factor in my ignorance – living and being an American. Living in a society where we aspire to sound white and look physically “whiter.”

America is a country of mixed ethnicities; we’re all originally from around the world (excluding Native-Americans themselves), yet so often we forget that. We forget that this country was built on the backs of immigrants and their culture. All people are welcome to America, until those “people” are people of color. America doesn’t have a specific “look.” There’s Americans in Hijabs, there’s Americans who have dark skin. Simple.   

Photography by Fernando Reyes

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