We must learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools.~ Martin Luther King Jr.
WHAT IS YOUR ETHNICITY?
AS A HISPANIC WOMAN (LATINA), DO YOU FEEL THERE IS EQUALITY IN AMERICA?
"I guess not necessarily as a Latina, but basically in general. It's hard to describe how I feel about this issue. For me, I don't see it hindering me too much because when I want to go for something, I just kind of go for it. In all aspects, as far as the business that I'm in, because I am Hispanic and I'm lighter skinned and don't have the traditional, stereotypical features, I don't think I'm stereotyped too much. But I can see it differently when my mom would walk into a room. I do see that. A lot is how people view you by what they SEE."
DO YOU HAVE AN EXAMPLE?
"Walking into a supermarket, my mother who can be the most humblest looking person, is going through the checkout aisles looking for the sugar free gum. As she's moving through the aisle, this white lady grabs her purse as though my mom was gonna jump her. And I could see that as I was standing back. It's quite common. For me, sometimes I feel I'm the hidden person. People might feel more comfortable to slight Hispanics because they don't think I am or I don't look it. I've gotten "You don't look like them". I'm like, "What does it matter? I'm still Hispanic. My parents are." They may be a couple shades darker than I am, have more the traditional looking traits of Hispanic people, but you definitely see it. It's almost a shame to say, cause I kind of stand a little in the background cause I don't meet the criteria. But it's funny how people can pick up a little bit of an accent or that you do have an ethnic look and they get uncomfortable cause they want to ask and they have a need to know. But then try to dance around a question."
WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE HAVE SUCH A NEED TO KNOW WHAT SOMEONES BACKGROUND IS?
"Sometimes I think people are just interested in the culture because they want to visit the country or they know other people, they have a neighbor just like you. Sometimes, people are just uncomfortable and want to know for sure before they put their foot in their mouth."
HAVING VISITED PUERTO RICO, HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE CULTURE IS DIFFERENT AS FAR AS EQUALITY OR RACISM GOES? DO THEY REACT TO PEOPLE THAT AREN'T PUERTO RICAN THE WAY PEOPLE HERE REACT TO PEOPLE THAT ARE?
"I don't think it's an equality issue there, they're honestly intrigued. We're referred to as outsiders and bring a touch of a different world the to them. At least the ones that have not gotten off the island. For example, they can tell the difference between a Hispanic black and an American black. We took our friends there and, even when I walk in, being light skinned, they know you're not from the area. They're curious about where you're coming from. I think it's also a need to know type of nature. I think Hispanics tend to be more warm about wanting to know who you are. I call it the "noosey" factor. (laughter). I remember when I was visiting a friend, and she was on the highest peak of a mountain and you think you're in a hillbilly town of Puerto Rico. You think nobody's paying attention and you're walking around. Let me tell ya, they knew I was there. I was trying to search for my grandmother's ex-husband. He was in the same town. Easy to locate for people. Give nicknames, descriptions. They don't know streets but they can tell you people. So I said I would try to visit him. It was getting dark, he ended up leaving his house, half blind, giving descriptions to what I said I looked like. People said they saw me in the neighborhood. People directed him to where they saw a newcomer from outside. They pay attention.
My husband would travel there, and he was kind of uncomfortable. With American men (like her husband), you can walk down the street and if they're interested they won't gawk, they'll just look out of the corner of their eye, and then if you looked their way, they'd turn around. In Puerto Rico, they'll just look at you up and down, keep looking and basically unclothe you. I had to tell him that's just the way it is there. So it's not really a difference in equality, but more so culture.
I think people just don't know how to close down the barrier of ignorance and just open up the mind to just accepting the differences in people. Culture wise, religion wise, you know it's there. You may not agree with it, then fine, just don't associate. Don't hang out. I don't feel I need to bash anyone for that. I can't understand it. You may not have the same traits or interests but you shouldn't look at someone differently because of it. (It's that way with religions too. If you don't believe everything they do, you don't fit in.) The way I look at it is if it's not hurting me and not hurting you personally, if you don't like it, walk away. They're not killing people. But they are "killing" people and are behaving badly towards them and bashing, just because they have something that sparks them differently. That's what makes them happy. They should be unhappy to make you happy?"
"I'll tell you something that just happened, something along the lines of equality with law enforcement or anti-law enforcement. There were two 13 year old kids at my kids school that walked up to my son and said "Hey, I just remembered, isn't your father a police officer?" His response was "Yeah, he was but hasn't been for the last three years. What of it?" They said "Well, your dad is on our list. My brother was arrested in September for selling drugs, so all cops are on our list. I'll be the one next to shoot a cop."
OH MY GOD! I HOPE YOU REPORTED IT!
"It just happened this morning but I'm going to. And that goes to inequality. So, because his dad is a cop he gets targeted because your brother, the drug dealer, got arrested?"
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AFFECTED BY INEQUALITY AS A WOMAN?
"In my business, a predominantly male environment (air duct cleaning), sometimes I am discriminated against more by women than men. I think they also think I should be dressed more butchy, like a man too. I get a call for a job, I report to the call, my guys are on the job. They answer their door and they're like "You? I have a problem with my system." I say "Yes, I'm here to help with that." They look past me and say "Where's the guy?" "I am your guy." You get that. I've had times where I've found problems with someone's system and told them but I'm not credible enough because I'm a woman. This one lady was so adamantly saying no, that I was wrong. I told her to hire another person to come out and then we'd discuss it."
DO YOU THINK THERE WILL EVER BE FULL EQUALITY?
"No, unfortunately. If you just treat people like people it would help. But as far as equal: that's like say, building a robot and making us all the same. That would get boring. There's good people and bad people. The laws are made to protect the good. This is why laws are made. Like needing your ID for things. (Then you hear) I don't carry my ID everywhere. Ok, then we'll just take any Joe Schmo that says who they are. There's changes and we have to adjust to that.
As far as equal rights: I'm Hispanic but I have sisters that are black. I try to break that barrier with my kids. As kids, I didn't bring them up with prejudice, sometimes kids just see (by appearances). You just have to squash the negativity for things to be good.
I personally feel the most racist people are black people. You have white people that are straight up rude and stuff. But then you have the same with even the younger generation thinking they grew up with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., like they lived it. If you just (accept) that "alright, there are prejudices. People don't like you for certain reasons." Is it well known that it can be just for the color of your skin? Move on, do what works for you. Between sisters and friends that are black, they all say, yeah you kind of see it, they cough it up that they're ignorant. Some other people are like "I just go along with my business. I have a good job, go to school and make it. I don't let that negativity bring me down." So half the time that whole "I don't fit in", if you stop and sit and argue the topic and say people are not being fair to me and this is a whole conspiracy to me, you're the only one bringing yourself down and will stay on that hamster wheel not moving forward. You're gonna lose. Move forward. You want something better, move on."