Saturday, July 20, 2013

This is my soapbox. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

This is my race/ethnicity/culture/gender soapbox.

If you don't like the looks of it feel free to leave now. No judgment. No hard feelings. I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes. I'm not looking for anyone's opinion. I'm just frustrated and need to get it out. And I have every right to do that because this is my blog and nobody is being forced to read it.

So here it goes.

I am a lot of things. And I am those things for a multitude of reasons. Over the course of my 24 years I have known, felt, and experienced events and phenomena that have molded me into the person I am. I have known love. I have known loss. I have felt heartache, loneliness, and hurt, but also amazing happiness, friendship, and healing. I am a representation of lessons learned. I am a variety of values that have adhered to my soul, and I am a struggle to become a better person. I am bad decisions and dumb luck. I am failure and success.

I love my heritage. I love that my great-grandfather was a personal servant to Pancho Villa. I love that one of my great-grandmothers came over from Spain, while another was of the Chichimeca peoples. I love that I am a mix of those cultures. I love stories that have been passed down and the history that runs through my veins. I love that I live in a bi-lingual household. I love that a weekly dinner menu pretty much always includes things like tacos and carne guisada. I love that I can tan easily!

But while my culture is a part of my identity, my identity is not my culture. Those words are not synonymous. I am not fully defined by my genetic make-up, nor am I completely defined by the struggle or successes of my ancestors. It is not amazing that I can do something because I am a Hispanic woman. Along the same frame of thought, I do not do anything in spite of the fact that I am a Hispanic woman.

What I do is about me. The person that I was raised to be. The person that I have decided to be. What I do and who I am is the result of moments of worry and struggle; the consequence of newfound courage and the acknowledgement of comfort. I am a product of circumstance. I am a network of an infinite number of miniscule decisions and huge life-changing stances. I am split-second determinations and agonizing debate. I am saved by grace and redeemed by love. I am caring and quirky. I am generous and silly, but also selfish and straitlaced. I'm empathic and positive, and I'm stubborn and insecure. I get scared and I get sad. I'm emotional and care to a fault, but I'm good with people and believe I may be stronger than I know. I yearn for adventure, and I err on the side of caution. I am so much more than I think I am, both good and bad. I'm a work in progress.

My parents never told me I would have to try harder because of the color of my skin. I was never taught that being a woman made life more difficult. I was never told that people would treat me differently because I happen to have a permanent tan. And I think I'm the better for it. I'm thankful for that. For not having those fears engrained in me. I am better for not believing that something I cannot change is an automatic obstacle in my life. 

I absolutely detest when people blame one of those outside forces as the cause of their every injustice. I don't care which race/ethnicity/gender you are, it's annoying and stupid. Yes, sometimes those things are a factor, but guess what? That's sometimes. Not all the time. You don't get to use it as a scapegoat for every problem in your life. I know that discrimination and racism exist, but if I allowed that truth to rule my decision-making processes or the opinion I hold of my personal being, I couldn't respect myself. And when other people do that it makes me respect them less.

Look at yourself first! I'm willing to bet that most things that happen to you are more a product of your own actions than the color of your skin. So the bad things happen because of what you look like, but the good things happen because of who you are? Flawed thinking. And if you think good things happen because of your race or ethnicity, gender or culture? Well, that might be worse. Have a little pride. Stop making excuses, because it's pathetic.

If I don't land some job, it'll be because my skills weren't strong enough. It'll be because I didn't interview well. It will be because someone else was a better fit due to their skills and strengths, or because it just wasn't meant to be. It won't be because my skin is brown and my last name hard to pronounce. If someone doesn't like me, let me take another look at the situation to see what happened. Let me examine my attitude and behavior, or their personal circumstance before blaming any animosity on something as trivial as an outside feature.

What's amazing to me is that the people who I so often see putting focus on blaming gender or race are the same people I see asking others to look past their physical attributes to see the person inside. If you want that from others, why can't you do it for yourself?

I'm a Hispanic woman, but if you were to ask me how I identify myself those two things would not be the first items named. They are important, yes, and they are high on the list. I am happy that I am both of those things because they are wonderful parts of my life. They are very much a part of me and I wouldn't change them for the world. But I don't have any control over those things, and I am able to take more pride in the identity that I have carved out for myself alongside those genetic truths. And I get to be everything that I am because I don't limit myself to them.

Love everything about yourself. Appreciate and respect and pay homage to your roots and the people that came before you. Embrace your gender identity. But don't let one thing define you. And don't let it become a crutch in your life -- because you should be better than that.

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