The most popular radio show in the country invites callers to identify themselves. That got me thinking…..what’s up with self-identification? What prompted these thoughts was the conversation that ensued when the caller told the radio personalities that he was in the hospital delivery room and his wife was about to give birth. He was asked what he planned to name his newborn child and he proudly responded in accented
English, Jonathon. The host then asked what the child’s last name would be and he responded with a Spanish surname. The immediate comment from one of the people in the studio was, why do Latinos do this, why do they name their children with “gringo” names they can’t even pronounce?
This particular encounter reminded me of a phrase I have heard often and have used myself when referring to a Mexican or Mexican-American who acts “white.” “Tiene el nopal en la frente.” Translation – they have a cactus on their forehead, which refers to how Mexican they look or their parents are yet they don’t speak Spanish or know the culture. Therefore, in the opinion of those who use the phrase, why is this Mexican “acting” white. I am embarrassed to admit that I was one of those people who could just not understand why people chose to behave that way. I questioned why people didn’t embrace their culture, their language and their heritage.
Let me explain, I grew up on the southwest border where most people are of Mexican descent, we speak Spanish as our first language and traveling back and forth to Mexico is faster and less expensive than traveling from Dallas to Fort Worth. How could everyone not embrace their Mexicanism – is that a word? Which leads me to today. I have traveled around the world, lived in several states and met people from many cultures, religions and ethnicities. I now understand that judging others for the languages they speak, the traditions they follow or what they name their children only shows my ignorance or lack of experience.
We are each a product of our collective experiences. How can I judge someone who grew up in a home where English was the only language spoken because they don’t know Spanish? How can I think that someone doesn’t love their heritage when they prefer that their children assimilate to the United States in order to be successful and face less discrimination?
One of the lessons life has taught me is that I can only control myself. I realize that judging anyone is a waste of time and energy, especially a fellow Latino who is working hard to survive and help their children succeed. I am very much a work in progress and understand and accept that I will continue to learn and grow (mentally, hopefully not sideways) until I die.
I challenge everyone reading this to practice some self-examination and think about what or who you judge.