It is common for our elders to remind us of the saying, “If you could walk a mile in my shoes.” That saying is true for this seventeen-year-old Latino young man. He talks of being an American citizen and the racism he has experienced. From people whispering about him in English assuming that he can only speak Spanish to the day that him and two of his friends are accosted by two white men at the convenience store because…they are brown. Sadly, these stories of racism are very present in our society and it, honestly has always been a part of our history. But for this young man he questions if he should have these memories as a part of his childhood? Shouldn’t he be able to live his life without clarifying for people that he is an American citizen and that his doesn’t speak Spanish because he was born and raised here, and no one ever taught him. There is nothing wrong with that. And though his grandmother back in Mexico desperately wanted him to learn to speak Spanish she loved him for what he did do, he made her smile, he loved her and that’s what mattered. This story helps us to understand how an innocent victim feels and digests things he has no control over, when all he wants is to be who he is. Unapologetically.
***Performer needs to be Latino but edits can be made for any gender, the writer gives permission for this change.
“Yo no hablo espanol.” That is actually my best kept secret. It is always amazing to me what lies in the things that we decide just by looking at people. You look at me and what I want you to think it is, “Damn! There is a remarkably handsome young Latino man.” Unfortunately, that isn’t what anyone thinks except for my mother, and there are times when I think she doesn’t truly believe herself when she thinks it. No, but seriously sometimes I wish that people would look at me as a blank slate. I’m not saying that I wish I were nothing or no one. I’m not saying that I wish that I looked like everyone else so that when someone did look at me there were no stereotypes to be wrapped up in. I guess I’m just saying that I wish people would be willing to have a conversation with me and listen to me speak perfect and pristine English before they look at me from a distance and under their breath whisper, “There’s another one of those illegals. I’m sure he can’t speak English. I’m sure his parents aren’t paying taxes.” We like to believe that all of these racial stereotypes began in recent years but if we’re being honest it’s always been here. And as a teenage Latino male I will tell you there’s a part of me that feels like they’re never going away.