It is difficult to hear the rhetoric surrounding race and ethnicity in today’s political climate. I was born in Milwaukee, and my family later moved to Franklin, Wis.
Franklin was filled with many middle-class people from all over the world. There was no difficulty being a minority in Franklin. Everyone was the same, no matter the color.
When my family moved to Worthington, Minn., when I was in third grade, everything changed. Worthington has a major slaughterhouse and meat-packing plant where many undocumented immigrants from Mexico come to get jobs and provide for their families. Other minorities come to Worthington as well, but 40.6 percent of the residents in Worthington today are Hispanic. That community includes my brother, my papa and me.
When I was in elementary school, there wasn’t as much of a divide between minority students and Caucasian students. In middle school, I got my first taste of racial profiling and discrimination.
When the eighth-grade “formal” was approaching in a few weeks, I had convinced my mother to let me get a beautiful flowered dress. I excitedly texted all my friends about the dress and they told me that a boy from our class wanted to go with me as my date. I couldn’t believe it and was so excited to go with him. The boy and I started chatting at school and I couldn’t wait for the formal.
The week of the formal I got a text from the boy and he said: “I’m sorry, I don’t want to go to the formal with a Mexican.”
At the time I didn’t cry or get upset. I didn’t say anything. But at that time I made a subconscious agreement with my mind — being Mexican was something to be ashamed of.
After that I made sure that no one knew my last name, as that would be a dead giveaway of my minority status. On my social media I changed everything to “ ‘Ari Elizabeth” so no one would know I was Mexican.
In high school, I made a point to hang out only with Caucasian students, because I didn’t want people to know what I really was. That didn’t really make anything better.
Throughout high school I suffered listening to many of my so-called “friends” saying things like: “The only reason our school’s GPA is so bad is because of all the Mexicans.”
I thought that going to college would be better and I would be able to embrace who I am. Instead, I was faced with more comments like: “I didn’t want to keep dating him because I didn’t want to end up marrying a Mexican and having babies that aren’t white or look like me.”
I often find that I can’t talk about these things in person because I get so emotional. I have written all this as a journal entry — but it is a story I want to share.
I want people to know that racially charged comments hurt — that they make people doubt who they are and what they can do.
I wish I could write that I have overcome these insensitive remarks, and that the process made me who I am. But I cannot. What I wrote about here is something I live with every day. It is a weight I carry with me.
I believe this is the reason I need and crave control. I can’t control my skin color or the fact that my father is Mexican. I can try to control everything else.
I want to show everyone around me and everyone who doubts what Mexicans can do — that I can outshine anyone’s expectations.
Ariana Lopez is a chemical engineering student at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.