Race isn’t just a label

Patricia Rocha, Reporter

have never been a huge fan of labels and classifications for people. Gay, straight, girl, boy, religious, atheist, black, white, it shouldn’t matter. We’re all just people. I have always felt that it is when we lose our individuality and start presenting ourselves as cliques and groups that we breed ideas of superiority and majority versus minority.

The reason I think I despise labels so much is because I never honestly knew which labels I fit in. To discuss issues of race is no light matter. There are people in this world far more educated than I who can write about inequality, immigration and the like. Instead I want to talk about my culture and how it has helped and sometimes hindered my ability to define myself.

If I was born in Bakersfield, my mother in Chicago, my father and grandmother in Texas and the other three grandparents in Mexico, am I Hispanic? Latina? Mexican? Mexican-American?

I’m confused is what I am.

I generally answer Mexican when asked, and that’s often followed by an answer like, “I thought you were white” or “You kind of look Asian” or “You don’t act Mexican.”

What does that even mean? I know it’s every immigrant families’ dream for their children to assimilate so well in this country that no one sees their race first, but it honestly kind of hurts in a way.

Perhaps even worse is someone knowing you’re Mexican and automatically assumes you speak Spanish.

It was an embarrassing first week each year of high school when my teachers would reprimand me for taking beginning Spanish for an easy A. Apparently, anyone who can roll their r’s, and has brown hair and a high tolerance for spicy foods should be able to speak the language. Everyone but me, of course, but I was too busy failing my third year of high school Spanish to figure that one out.

For a long while, I used to think all of this didn’t matter, but as I reflect more on myself, it does. I am not just Patricia Rocha. I am an example.  I am who my grandparents imagined I’d be when they came to this country decades ago for a better life. I am the generation that’s going to graduate from college.

I am a part of a race and culture that makes up almost 50 percent of the country and is still considered a minority. I’m a part of a culture that takes pride in the strength of hard work and perseverance, and is constantly trying to prove itself. Every failure of mine is theirs, and every accomplishment of mine is theirs.  If by some crazy circumstance I found myself president, I wouldn’t just be the president. I’d be the first female Mexican president. By then I’d learn to conjugate my irregular Spanish verbs, hopefully.

I take pride in knowing that I am an individual who doesn’t rely on a label. I am not a clique, or a stereotype. I am, however, a part of the history of my race and culture, and I take a lot of pride in that too.