4. Recognize your privilege.

I’ve written before about my Cuban heritage, so some of you might be aware of this. If you aren’t, I guess I can’t say I’m surprised--my three siblings and I are all very pale latinxs, and I guess I’ve spent a lot of my life “passing” as white. I identify very strongly with my latinx heritage, but I have encountered very few difficulties as a product of it.

I was recently discussing this with my aunt, however, when she told me about the difficulties that her two sons--cousins who are like my brothers--experienced while we were all students at the same high school. My cousins were called every derogatory name for latinos under the sun--someone in a bar once even came at my cousin for being arabic, which we aren’t, either.

My cousins and I grew up in the same area of Michigan. We attended the same high school. At home, we ate the same foods and danced to the same music and spoke the same languages. But based on the color of their skin, they have lived out a more tumultuous latino reality. Somehow, I had no idea. My eyes had been closed to this reality, inadvertantly. 

This, again, can be applied to a lot of things in life. I have been fortunate to have experienced little prejudice for the color of my skin (though the identity erasure of being “white” kind of irks me), and that my parents came from a country where they were afforded citizenship, when so many other immigrants struggle to obtain it. I recognize how lucky I am, and also the importance of helping others who have not been in equally advantageous positions in life. Though I would like to think I’ve felt this way for a while, especially as a result of my diverse college experience, I think realizing how close the issue of prejudice came to home really struck a cord with me.

This is especially important right now, given our present political climate. It is important to recognize that while we may be smart, talented, and capable, there are other, underlying, invisible factors that come into play in our own successes and failures, and the successes and failures of others. We should stand with those among us who have not been offered the same opportunities. Be willing to frame yourself in a world view that is open to love and acceptance. 

Me, my Aunt Mary, my sister, and my mother, circa 1996. Four Cuban women, though my Aunt is the most likely to be noted as Cuban by looks. 

Me, my Aunt Mary, my sister, and my mother, circa 1996. Four Cuban women, though my Aunt is the most likely to be noted as Cuban by looks.