As movements in the country continue to fight against racism, America should not make this a battle of White vs. Black. Racism, unfortunately, is a complex reality that occurs within and between many racial groups in the country,” says Jaqueline Villalpa Arroyo
Once we arrived in the United States, we were advised on where to shop, eat, live, and attend school. We were taught English and instructed to say “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English,” or “Please speak slowly,” if we could not decipher what we were being told. We were also educated on the different racial and social groups in the new city: A cultural crash course— that’s a nice way to label it. However, this racial grouping was not at all an aid towards cultural assimilation. It was an introduction to accept the widely-accepted racist attitudes that marks American culture.
Adapting To The American Culture
In mid-2005, my family moved to the United States from Mexico, and, like many new immigrants, we turned to Americans for guidance. We, especially my parents, asked a lot of questions: “Where do we find a job,” “Where do we send our kids to school,” etc. It was not long until these Q & A sessions turned into several casual conversations and even friendships with the people who helped us.
Soon enough, my family began adopting their colloquialisms, their Spanglish vernacular, and their Chicano slang. Inevitably, we were becoming “Americanized.” While I loved experiencing my family’s integration within the community, there is one thing I wish we had never adopted— the implicitly biased lifestyle.
We were told, if not warned, that the “blacks” were dirty, dangerous, unintelligent, and disrespectful. We were also introduced to demeaning words designated specifically for “black people.” Because my family was from Mexico and had never seen African-Americans, we believed them. We were ignorant, and we feared the unknown.
This prejudicial mentality followed us everywhere. If I ever befriended an African-American, I was apt to being questioned why I befriended them. If we ever spotted a blended, Hispanic and African-American family, the idea of miscegenation was immediately condemned. Miscegenation was only praised if it involved a “gringo,” — a white man. Surprised?
Although I would never label my family as “racist,” I definitely believe that the implicit biases we held perpetuated the racist attitudes at the time. I must point out that the people who helped us assimilate were not bad people at all. I strongly believe that they, too, were victims of the subtle racism we all wish did not exist.
Racism Within Minorities
As the Black Lives Matter movement began to grow and new racist-motivated actions and remarks began to appear in the media, I became more worried about the racial issues around me. Whether it be institutional racism or police brutality, I pondered on what could have fanned the hatred among different races.
Just a week ago, I sat down with a friend who is African-American. As we chatted, I asked, “Do African-Americans hold negative stereotypes towards Hispanics?” She said, “Yes” and began to talk about how her own father would actually describe Hispanics as “dirty” — similar to what my family was told about African-Americans.
What I really took from this conversation was not that African-Americans stereotype Hispanics, but, that all this time, both minorities could have helped the fight against the racism of which they were both victims. Yet, the two have not done so because we cannot fight something of which we, ourselves, are a part. Like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes it, it is a “birth defect” and “a paradox and contradiction in this country.”
Just think how different would America be if racial minorities fought against institutional racism and police brutality… together?
Let’s redifine what being an American really means
While my family’s actions are unjustifiable, I do blame the normalization of a racist culture that was indoctrinated into my family. We were introduced to an America that did not uphold the values it proclaimed. As movements in the country continue to fight against racism, America should not make this a battle of White vs. Black. Racism, unfortunately, is a complex reality that occurs within and between many racial groups in the country. Let not the word “fight” possess you, the reader, with hatred or violence but passion to pursue justice, inclusiveness, and equality for ALL Americans. Let this passion help you redefine what being “AMERICAN” really means.