Growing up as the child of Brazilian immigrants, many people assumed I was an illegal alien. Because of this, many issues crossed my path that border on the line of racism. After realizing the mistreatment was wrong (and illegal), I dug deeper into discovering the reality of racial coding and racial inequities. While many people look down upon Latinos, we have a culture that is amazing and based on happiness and a passion for life.
Racism still exists and institutions know it. There are people who are discreetly trying to break down these barriers and eliminate racism. The problem is that we cannot eliminate racism in the dark; it has to be done in the light. We must illuminate to eliminate.
People in this country commonly misperceive Latinos. As the daughter of immigrants, I have seen it firsthand. While in elementary school, I was considered “at-risk youth” simply because my parents came from another country. This meant I was enrolled into anti-violence, anti-drugs, and “cops and kids” programs before hitting the age of 12. While I thoroughly enjoyed all of these programs, I realize it was institutionalized racism to assume that because I was the child of immigrants, I needed to learn how to control my anger, not use drugs, and respect police officers. This leads me to believe that those are some of the misconceptions people have placed on the Latino community.
Because of policies in our country against “illegal immigrants”, many Latinos face struggles that interfere with their education, health, and happiness. A perfect example is the inability to seek resources as an undocumented person in the US. Because a Latino may not have a social security number, he or she can be banned from receiving certain assistance. This actually affects entire communities without people realizing it.
For instance, in certain Boston areas, there are large Latino communities. Now the teenaged Latinos who go on to high school face issues because there are no English as Second Language courses in some schools anymore. Immigrants are forced to go to school and interact with students and teachers who cannot understand or communicate with them. Because of this lack of support, Latino students are forced to drop out of school if they haven’t already failed. And for those who manage to graduate, being undocumented means they cannot enroll into a college. This creates such a downward spiral for our community.
How can we foster positive change in the Latino community? First, we must embrace that Latinos have their own culture and they don’t have to adopt an American lifestyle to be able to succeed in America. By understanding our differences, we learn so much and have an opportunity to adopt certain things we haven’t before. By continuing to stand up, our youth has the ability to improve the way we are treated and increase our support system.
We must also understand that we all have the same shared value: our childrens’ futures. Many Latinos in America are here to improve their lives, give children better lives, contribute positively to our communities, and continue to be productive members of our society. To assume all Latinos are one way is discriminatory. Latinos come from various countries with different cultures and unique ancestrial stories. Assuming we are all the same is wrong. Take a moment to understand that we each come with amazing stories and are on different journeys towards happiness and success.