As a child, I was oblivious of the role I would have coming from a small Mexican family. I assumed everyone was like me and no one else had a worse or better situation than what I had at home. Little did I know that there were dozens of thousands of people in this country, in this world that I would either have to look up to or look down on, or even how I would be treated as a woman, or Latina based on society’s choices of who is inferior or who is superior.
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I feel that I had an advantage over several of my peers in grade school because despite the fact that my parents weren’t properly schooled, they pushed us to excel and be alert in classes. My parents taught my siblings and I proper morals to carry ourselves out right in society, while my peers seemed poorly educated in social norms and were surrounded with vulgarity of the streets. My hometown, Lynwood, is located a bit east of South Central Los Angeles, and if you have heard of South Central you would know of the saturation of violence that happens in the streets, and that the area is composed mostly of minority groups; Blacks, and Latin American immigrant families. I was told that my city of Lynwood had long ago been home to white families before African Americans moved in. The city was then considered suburbia, and now it has urbanized into a city that is composed of around eighty-thousand. An old history teacher told me how Whites drove out of Lynwood once African Americans started moving into the city. Soon after Latin Americans, mostly from Mexico moved in at around the same time my father arrived in the city. For several years later, Lynwood became a somewhat neglected town along with its neighboring cities.
In grade school I was placed in special classes designed to fulfill my expertise in subjects as I was considered proficient among the average students in Lynwood; you were either smart enough to be in GATE classes or you were stuck in regular classes consisting of average work. All through Middle school and later in High school I believed I was pretty brilliant. I was able to get good grades on all of my report cards each semester because I thought school was too easy. The only problem I had was that I felt that I wasn’t learning much from all of my classes. Teachers did not seem to care about the quality of work we turned in, all they wanted was the security that we were getting it done and we pass the class. Our parents had difficulty with communicating with our teachers because of the language barrier therefore nothing would be done to improve the education we were being given. I feel that as a student, I satisfied with the lack of attention we were receiving from our teachers because we were still passing our classes. It was somewhat of a hegemony that I felt satisfied with what was being taught to me, because I assumed that it wouldn’t get any better than that as I was part of a minority. I learned to conform to inequality that seemed so natural to me. Once I started taking my SAT’s I realized that the quality of work I was given in my schools in Lynwood was pretty much mediocre. My first SAT’s were horrible because I had no idea how to answer the questions I was given. I began studying on my own because there weren’t enough resources pay for SAT prep at my school. The task was difficult but I was able to get help from a cousin attending Cal State Long Beach; she knew first hand the difficulties I was facing because she had also attended from a High school from Lynwood. With her help and several days of busting my butt off, I was able to receive decent scores for my SAT’s. As the majority of people in Lynwood are of Mexican American heritage, there are different policies and drills that are carried out. I feel that most of the city’s money goes directly to the safety of our streets instead of going directly to our public education; high crime rates have been a factor of this distribution of money. I feel that if more money were to be invested in public education and even more recreational activities in Lynwood, there wouldn’t be as much crime on the streets, and there wouldn’t be a need to have the city watched over.
When my senior year came in high school, I felt somewhat burdened in making a choice of what I was planning to do with my life. My plan was to attend a four year university, but I had no idea how I was going to afford school, prerequisites, which school was more suitable for me and what not because I would be the first one from my family to attend a university. I began filling applications for college, and for jobs to pay for college. I realized that every single application I filed asked for my ethnicity, my gender, and whether or not I spoke a different language apart from English. I then saw the possible ways people would judge me based on the answers I would write for these surveys; they could either judge me for being a woman, for being a Hispanic woman, or the capabilities of communicating and presenting myself towards the public. I wondered then, “What if I stated that I was Caucasian? Would they believe me or would they refuse to accept me based on what I look like, and how I speak?” Never in my life did I consider being affected by my cultural background as I assumed it was just something extra, like a cherry on top of a sundae, something that would well represent me. Unfortunately, society does not work that way, and they are highly expectant of minority groups because they feel that they have lacked the knowledge Whites have received for many years.
If I have to pick ten things that I believe would make it a privilege to be white I would say: 1. White women are able to wear certain clothes on the streets without being mistaken for a “slut”, 2. White men and women aren’t affected by the law in Arizona, sb 1070, which gives law enforcement to ask for documentation, 3. White women are not as ridiculed as Hispanic women when they decide to do a “man’s” job, 4. White women are not as pressured into marriage than are Hispanic women, 5. White people have more connections with others to get into certain fields of work, 6. White women do not have to work at sweatshops to get paid minimum wage, 7. White women aren’t usually told “the clearance section is in the back of the store” because people assume they have money, 8. White women and men don’t have to worry about taking courses in English while working a grave yard shift to serve a family of five, 9. White women can fit into clothes at major stores because it is designed to fit their body figures, and finally 10. White women and men can drive really nice cars without having people speculate if they stole it. There are many more, and I am not trying to brag about how bad we have it as Mexican American’s, I am just trying to prove that society has in fact created differences between us, and them.
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Stereotypes come from the home in most cases. I remember my mother constantly calling white folk “green-gos” assuming that they all had money and were pretty stingy about it. Each time my mother referred to them, she seemed to hold some sort of resentment toward them. She inherited her feelings to my siblings and I so when we would see a white person at the mall or at the store we would immediately judge them. I remember feeling as though each time a white person looked at me, they were staring me down because of who I was; a little Mexican. As I got older and started communicating with some of my teachers that were Caucasian, and on some occasions their families, I began to realize that they weren’t all that bad. Now that I am attending university, I feel that I am somewhat equal to them because we are learning the same things, working together to solve the same problems, and sharing our insights of different subjects.
If everyone were to get together and whites wouldn’t stray off from areas that are becoming populated with different cultures, I feel that stereotypes would certainly diminish. I feel that an event that is helping unite us as a whole American race would be the integration of minority students in schools like UCR. Another occurrence that may help diminish stereotypes would be the integration of several types of ethnic foods within restaurants; as we are becoming a globalized world, I feel that food is one main way in which people can identify different groups.
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