Making it personal

I remember being told by someone that supposed to be close to me “not everything is about race.” I was also told “go back and fix your own f#cking country” after I was about to vote after becoming a citizen. One of my favorite was “you voted for Obama simply because he is black.” If you get to know me you will realize that one of the things that I fight the most in life is labels. I hate them, I hate the shortcut obsessed society, I feel like it is cheating. You cannot replace a good conversation about someone’s origin story with a wikipedia page.

The day after the election I cancelled plans to travel to Colombia. The plan was to take our daughter there while she was still able to just sit on our lap and that way my extended family could meet the new member to our crazy clan. People called me paranoid (a label that I am actually ok with, because I do constantly worry.) People said I was blowing it out of proportion. In my mind a movie played. We are coming back to the US and because I am a naturalized citizen I might have to go on a separate line and my daughter (even if just for a little while) would be separated from me. It played over and over in my head, how her being ripped away from my arms would feel and how I would not be able to just comfort her because I would have to go do some “extra” screening. Like that time that having a beard meant I was going to be subjected to a “random” check. It does not sound so paranoid now when there are not just news of people being separated at the border for seeking asylum. There are even instances of actual citizens being separated from their kids by mistake. The common denominator is just that they are people of color.

The first time I went to a BBQ in the US was in Caldwell Woods. Yes the park where someone decided that just wearing a Puerto Rico shirt was enough to questions not only citizenship but also to harass someone. If you have not heard about it go check it out, I’ll wait.

I have many good memories of that park. I was first introduced to the concept of a picnic. There would be more picnics there. There was also the Colombian picnic for the celebration of Colombian independence. The blending of cultures of the outdoor gathering with treats from back home. The loud music where a bunch of crazy Colombians dance Salsa and celebrate being around each other so far away from the land of our birth.

One of the first people to befriend me in high school here in the US was from Puerto Rico. I love that flag. I love all Latin American flags. They bring memories of the people that I have met from those countries. They are beacons of togetherness. I know that a Mexican flag will mean the possibility of good mole, Argentina access to good chimichurri, Puerto Rico some good arroz con gandules and the list goes on. I don’t have the reaction of get the f#ck out of my country, cannot even understand why someone gets to that. I know it is fear of change based (the guy in the video even says it) but I still don’t understand it. I guess the only thing that maybe begins to explain it for me is when I see people flying the confederate flag.

So to make it clear and personal to those that don’t understand why this is about race. I am judged by the color of my skin constantly. I have to enter every conversation with an explanation or a joke about drug dealing because of my country of origin. I have to listen to people call me one of the “good ones” because I am a professional or came here legally. It is the reason that when then candidate Trump called Mexican’s criminals and rapists I took notice and was very scared for our future. Because it is hard to ignore that white nationalism is showing it’s ugly head and if you don’t stand up to it, you are silently supporting it. Like the cop that stood by while a woman was harassed, when you sit there and let people talk about “brown” or “black” people and you don’t speak up you are no better than that cop. I get it, you don’t consider yourself racist because you don’t identify with the old drunk guy yelling expletives, but if you don’t open your eyes you become that cop that simply stood by and did not do his job because the person at the other end of the abuse was simply a brown person.

2 Comments

  1. I don’t know how i stumbled on your blog, but as a brown man myself (first gen Mexican-American), I can’t help but find your post completely foreign to my experience. I’ve lived all over the USA, in California, Texas and Arizona. Primarily in poor areas when young, and upper class post college. The area I currently live in is predominantly White, and yet, despite all of this, I haven’t experienced not one bit of racism – atleast not from white people. The racism I have seen, has been 100% at the minority level (say black vs Mexican race wars in LA).

    With that said, the real experience of racism I have felt has been in Latin America, primarily Mexico. I have been told by club owners that they are not letting anyone else in – only to see fair skin attendee after fair skin attendee be let in. Told that the restaurant is ‘full’, despite many empty seats…and then seeing recent arrival fair skin attendee be lead to a seat.

    So with that experience behind me, I was expecting a very different post. Like my parents, uncles, and immigrants that arrived before me, I was expecting you to have a deep respect and admiration for the situation here in the USA. But instead, it seems this recent wave of immigrants like to take the victim road, just like I have been reading. It’s sad.It doesn’t fit the data and more importantly, (rightly so) people are getting tired of it. It certainly pushes me to want to limit immigration as well, atleast until this victim mentality where “everything is seen as racist” can get under control.

  2. Btw, I also go to Colombia alot…I was in Parque 93 in Bogota for the world cup, and will be going to Cali in November. What you call “racism” is actually basic stereotypes, based on numerical distributions that tend to fit the data. Atleast that is what I am told by both Mexico and Colombia immigration every time I enter Colombia, being a Mexican looking individual, that because there is such a large drug trade between the two countries I will always have to undergo more thorough inspections. I don’t get mad. I don’t take it personal. Most of all, I don’t even call it racism and criticize the country. As an engineer by trade, I understand the numbers and just plan for it. But then again, I come from a previous generation of immigrants…

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