Discrimination: Everyone Is Their Own Person

As the years pass by society keeps wanting to make discrimination an issue, to make it stop, but in reality, it has been more present than ever before. According to Habbas and Associates discrimination can take up in many forms, for example, age discrimination, religion, gender, pregnancy-based discrimination, and the list goes on. In similar events, Brent Staples and Judith Ortiz Cofer share their stories of how they were discriminated against. Staples who wrote the article “Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space,” talks about his struggles of being looked down upon for his race, being looked at like a criminal for the color of his skin. Staples wrote an article called “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I Just Met a Girl Named Maria,” in which Staples tells her story of having people put labels on her without knowing her persona just because of her cultural background and ancestry. Having read both Cofer’s and Staple’s stories I now realize that I have fallen victim to discrimination based on my national origin, race, and lookism.

A similarity that Staples and I share is that we are both labeled based on our race. Staples encountered many people fearing him, “The proprietor excused herself returned with an enormous red Doberman pinscher straining at the end of the leash”, as well as his people, “...- and as an adult on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he continues, he cannot constrain his nervousness when he meets black men on certain streets.” I was born in Mexicali, Baja California but moved to the U.S when I was two years old. It didn't take away from the fact that I am aware of how people discriminate Mexican people. Calling them names like drug traffickers, thieves, rapists, and kidnappers, or people’s favorite “cholillos.’’ Just like Staples people are afraid of my people, or maybe even me sometimes when I’m in a store and the salesperson hears me speaking Spanish or see my brother who looks like your typical Mexican kid, immediately their eyes are glued to my every move. It doesn’t matter if they don’t know our story, if we’re good people, if we are rich, or poor, all they see is a label hanging over our head calling us murderers, shoplifters, and gangsters.

Cofer and I relate a fair amount to each other, both me and she have been humiliated based on our culture and where our families come from. American people feel they’re entitled to make fun of us, Mexican people, because of our accent when we try to speak English, or that it is okay to call us “beaners.” Cofer had a confrontation at a gathering with a man who made fun of her publicly, “My companion and I stood silently waiting for the man to end his offensive song”. Just like Cofer I’ve had encounters where I feel less of a person because of my looks or the way someone of my family speaks. A vivid memory I have and will never forget is once when my Mom, and all of my siblings were traveling to San Diego. Arriving at the checkpoint in Alpine a Border Patrol asks my mom “Where are you going today?” Take into consideration my mom doesn't speak or understand English the officer stares at her and is just met with silence. The officer grows angry and starts asking my mom questions aggressively. My siblings and I start answering for her, but he shushes us and asked my mom to park to the side. My blood started to boil. I felt offended and all I wanted to do was to tell that officer off. He saw our passports, he saw that we were all U.S Citizens, and after 30 minutes let us all go. It made me realize that it didn’t matter how much we tried to look like them, act like them, or try to be part of their world we would always be looked as different.

Finally, a significant similarity that I share with Cofer is that we were classified based on the way we looked. As I had mentioned I was raised in the U.S, I don’t take into account the characteristics of a typical Mexican girl. My skin complexion is of medium to light, I have light brown hair, and I am of a good height. Living in a border town though, I grew up going to Mexicali most of the time, and even played basketball over there. That’s the time when I most started feeling some discrimination towards me. The girls from over there would call me names, like “gringa” or simply talk about me behind my back. They thought I didn’t speak Spanish and that I wasn’t able to understand them. Until one day I confronted them and told them “Si hablo español, y si entiendo lo que dicen de mí a mis espaldas.” (I do speak Spanish, and I do understand what you say about me behind my back). After that day I never heard them say anything about me, and hopefully, they learned to not judge a book by its cover. Just like Cofer when she had her first public poetry reading and encountered being labeled by her appearance. “An older woman motioned me to her table, and thinking (foolish of me) that she wanted me to autograph a copy of my newly published slender volume of verse, I went over. She ordered a cup of coffee from me, assuming that I was a waitress”. Cofer and I have to live with a certain image of us walking over our heads for the rest of our lives. People don’t care to know who we are or learn about our story, all they see is what they want to see and what society tells them to see.

Discrimination doesn’t care about who we are or what our character is like, just like what Cofer and Staples experienced people will still judge us based on our culture, beliefs, and where we come from. I learned that wherever we go, it doesn’t matter if it’s America, Mexico, or Australia we will always be judged even by those who say they don’t. Society teaches people how to discriminate without even having to try to. It never really matters how hard we try to fit it into their world, if we change our culture, our beliefs in order to seem like them. We all have to live with the unfairness that brings with being part of the culture and believing in it. We will never be seen as normal because we were never even part of them in the first place, and that's okay as long as we know who we are at the end of the day.

Works Cited

  • Cofer, Judith Ortiz. “The Myth of the Latin Woman: I just met a Girl Named Maria.” Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide, 12th edition, (Jan. 2012): 232-236. Print.
  • Habbas and Associates. What are Different Forms of Discrimination? San Jose: San Jose Personal Injury Attorneys, Aug. 2018. Web. 15 Jan. 2020
  • Staples, Brent. “Just Walk on By: A Black Man Ponders His Power to Alter Public Space.” Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide, 12th edition, (Jan. 2012): 240-243. Print.
16 December 2021
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