As a Latina who not only was raised to be aware of these issues, but who’s studied in them in school and written about them professionally for several years, I am occasionally accused of “making everything about race.” Even on News Taco. The funny thing is, I think this accusation is supposed to put me on the defensive, make me feel like I’m doing something wrong, or simply “put me in my place” — oops! There I go again.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that such accusations are really a blatant expression on the part of the speaker that it is they who are uncomfortable talking about race, or even listening to someone else discuss it. Because, if we were to get technical about it, the country was kind of founded on race and the divisions among races; even if we only use the examples of Native Americans and African-Americans, not even venturing into the world of Chinese, Japanese, Italians, Mexicans, etc. Race is a part of our cultural heritage in this country, not talking about it is just silly.
In other words, it is not me who is making anything about race, rather, I’m just pointing out what we all already know is there.
I can imagine that, for someone who is white or does not consider themselves to be of an alternative ethnic group, any discussion of race makes them feel like they are being blamed for racism. Indeed, academic studies I read about last semester in white privilege found that, because whites often do not consider themselves to belong to an ethnic group, any discussion of race often automatically puts them on the defensive. Which, I think, is unfortunate, because I think an honest conversation of race, white privilege and history is something that would do our country good and help us move forward in the 21st century in a healthy, strong and united way.
I personally do not blame all whites for the racism we continue to tolerate in this country. On the contrary, some of the most tolerant and racism-aware people I know are white, but the fact of the matter is that white privilege exists, and part of the privilege is claiming that race doesn’t matter and that other people have to stop talking about it.
Now, before I go too much further, I have to point out that I myself have never been the victim of much blatant racism. There is the occasional drunk guy in a bar who tells me that Mexicans have ruined his life, the stern and disgusted look I get from women at Starbucks when I’m having a cell phone conversation in Spanish, the classmate who makes an ignorant remark about Latinos fully sure that she’s actually very intuitive. These are the types of incidents that mark my experience with racism; personally, sexual harassment and sexism have been much bigger problems in my life — but that’s for another column.
Yet, just because I do not experience it personally, does not mean that it’s okay for other people to. I have family members who are not as light-skinned as I, who have suffered greater scrutiny before the Border Patrol for example, or who have been called racial slurs. I have friends alive today who can recall times when they were not let into restaurants because they were “messcin,” told by fathers they couldn’t date their daughters, told by management that they simply “weren’t qualified,” told to “go back to Mexico” even though their family is from somewhere else. This is, indeed, 2011, and these types of incidents (except for the restaurant example) are still happening.
The truth is, despite what some of our racist commenters on News Taco believe, I am a proud American and I love my country. That’s exactly why I want it to be the best country it can be, and allowing and tolerating racism — even if that means we all bite our tongues and don’t discuss it because it’s uncomfortable — isn’t going to get us there. So there it is, why it is I always have to “make everything about race,” although when you think about it, it’s really not me at all.
Follow Sara Inés Calderón on Twitter @SaraChicaD[Image By News Taco]