It’s interesting to write this self-assessment because I tend to be very prideful in my Identity but often find when I need to write it down, I struggle expressing what my identity is. This communication class has made me become more aware of the different kinds of cultures there are in the World. With the new prospective I’m gaining I hope to understand myself more and how I can contribute to the worlds around me. This self-assessment has caused me to seek deep within myself and I hope to share with you a few things I’ve discovered.
I am a Mexican-American female who grew up in a lower middle class family. Mexican American was a term I wasn’t aware of until I was leaving High-school and entered in to college. I’d always just identified as a Mexican, and thought nothing more. I remember becoming friends with a girl who was also Mexican (but she spoke Spanish) and she clarified to me that there was a difference. In this memory, I can recall her telling me a Mexican is someone who was born, and at some point in their lives, lived in Mexico (and obviously speaks Spanish). So I asked her “So then what does that make me?”, she responded “You’re of Mexican descent but were born and raised in America, so that makes you a Mexican-American”. Who even knew? I didn’t that’s for sure. I began to question my parents more about being Mexican and about our culture. I remember my Dad saying the same thing as my friend, telling me “Yes, I am Mexican but you’re Mexican-American, or a Chicana”. I liked the sound of Chicana and began to Identify as that versus saying I was Mexican, it is also used interchangeably with Mexican-American. If someone were to ask me now what my race is, I’d simply say Mexican because as I grew up I was exposed to more white people and saying Mexican American asked for an explanation I wasn’t willing to give.
In 2017, Latin people have given many different titles for one to Identify with within the Latin culture. Recently the term Latinx came out in the Latin culture. Latinx is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino, Latina and even Latin. Latinx also helps people who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid feel a part of the Latin culture. Spanish tends to have a lot of masculine forms of grammar within the language, something I believe played into the way females are viewed in Latin culture. For the sake of understanding my point of view in this assessment I won’t be using the Latinx term. The gender I identify with is female. Being female in a Mexican household was an experience that some would describe as traditional. I grew up being told I was to cook for the family, clean the house, stay with and around the women, have long hair, etc. All things that essentially affirmed to me that my main role was to take care of the family because that was my role as a female. I remember always serving meals to the men before serving anyone else in the family. And it always went by seniority, ex. My grandpa first and then my dad, and then my uncles etc. My parents did heavily enforce the Idea that I was to get an education and do “big things” with my life but often was conflicting to me because I felt I was placed in a certain category but then told to reach above that category. Part of the movement to use Latinx is to break those thoughts that men and women have gender roles, because they tend to effect negatively the people who live by them. The ability to speak Spanish is something I often think of because it is an ability I do not have. This has affected my life in a big way because it is often one of the first things I’d have to say about myself when explaining to people my culture and race. When I am in that position I get one response: “What do you mean you don’t speak Spanish? You’re not Mexican”. There is never a conversation I have that involves that statement that I don’t get annoyed by, partially because it brings up feelings I had of not knowing where I belong. I’ve learned culturally I am a Mexican, it may not be what people think but this is who I know to be.
I grew up in Lemon Grove, Ca, which is small city right outside of downtown San Diego. Lemon Grove is known as “tweeker town”, meaning there are lots of drug addicts there. I only lived there until I was in middle school. Lemon Grove is a city with mostly Mexican and Black people and I remember always assuming white people don’t live there because all white people are rich and they live in big nice houses. I learned this from my cousins who have never had good experiences with white people so they’ve come to believe white people don’t have any good interest in anyone colored. Then right when I was in entering middle school my parents decided to buy a house and we moved to the suburbs. This was a different world for me but I was super excited about it. My parents are very friendly and outgoing people and always taught us to embrace others, that we were all the same. I met and became friends with many white people. Today if you were to line up all my friends you’d see I probably now have more white friends than I do friends of any other race.
Moving into the suburbs I began to see how white people lived, and it wasn’t all glamorous like I had believed it to be. I never felt uncomfortable with my friends, I always felt loved and welcomed. I remember thinking they ate good food like toaster strudels and Alfredo fettuccine, a striking difference from the Mexican food I ate at home. My friends seem to have things I did not, or do things with their family that mine didn’t do. I think where we lived everyone was a little richer than us but my parents made our home feel comfortable that I never thought much about money.In a very general way I learned white people were like me. I was no different and they were no better. My parents did treat people the same, always by the golden rule. I’ve always been know to my white friends though as their Mexican friend, and have heard them say “It’s fine because Tina’s Mexican” when saying a racist joke or speaking about something involving race. I hate this because it’s used a justification for the use of a derogatory comments because you were friends with someone brown and therefore couldn’t be a racist. It wasn’t until I was in college that I no longer laughed with my friends when they would say racist jokes but explained how that’s not okay for them to say things like that.
As far as the gender perspective I gained living around white people, it was very different from what I had been learning at home. My friends did chores but it was for money so the options of chores weren’t limited to house chores. I observed white females cared very much about their image. Always doing something with their hair, nails and skin. I swear my friends had more hair products than all the people I knew combined. Their hair was straight and easy to manage, always flowed. Mine was curly and tangled. I hated it. The white female gender roles I perceived growing up were that white girls were always pretty, kind, and advantaged. My cousins from Lemon Grove would always call me white wash because I used the word “like” in my sentences acted like a “ valley girl”. It bothered me but I loved going to visit my cousins though because we relate in so many ways. I understood and laughed at jokes I’d never laugh about with my white friends. It was a comfort to me to be able to do that. I’m on a plane flying to Los Angeles to see my cousins as I write this assessment and laughing with my cousins in a way I know makes sense to only us because we are Chicanas is still comforting. In fact we are going to a concert this weekend where the artists performing are all Chicano artists, something I wouldn’t do with my white friends because they wouldn’t know who they were. I’d say the media influenced my thinking by affirming Mexicans were different than others by pointing out the silly things Mexican Mothers would do or life in a Mexican household. I grew up listening to spanish music, watching George Lopez, going to Chicano park festivals to celebrate Mexican heritage, watching novelas , etc. I don’t speak Spanish but I do understand it and all those things listed above were things I felt apart of time after time despite the thoughts of not being Mexican enough or being white washed. These media’s taught me to be proud of being a Mexican and that embracing our cultural norms wasn’t a bad thing and they were unique and different from other people’s, especially white peoples but that was okay.
In this class I’ve been interested in knowing more about The Ethical Imperative because understanding this would answer questions I have about how to really help and understand other cultures that are in need. We were asked questions about how we would feel if a shabby man came up to us at dinner, I want to know why my thought immediately when to “His man would be pitied”. I’d like to know more about Ethnocentrism and why we can’t see outside our own culture before we make a judgement. I want to know more about the taken-for granted knowledge within my own culture because I believe as I become more aware of that I can recognize that when I’m interacting with other cultures too. Self awareness is important and I feel this class is helping me gain that ability.