You should see the surprise on people’s faces when I say that I am white and also Latina. For some reason, they are astounded.
I always laugh and then take the time to explain my ethnicity, heritage, and more. But then I think about why someone reacted that way. I think about how everyone has an image for everything, and that I don’t match up with the stereotype of a Latinx person.
Everywhere I go, being Latina has impacted me. People ask if I have a story, or how my parents got here, that I speak English very well, and they are very impressed when they hear about everything I have done in my community. But I am also affected when I read something on the news that hurts my Hispanic community and I can’t talk to anyone at school about it because they can’t relate.
Here in Memphis, I’ve also noticed that I don’t see as many Latinx people where I go to church, study, shop and so on. I attended many schools throughout my childhood, and three out of the five schools were really diverse. The other two had students and administrators from different backgrounds, but there was a lack of Latinx students. Though my school, Crosstown High School, is very open and diverse, I don’t see as many Latinx students compared to other races.
I do know that we are reaching out to the community and improving every day. For example, Crosstown High creates weekly surveys to see how each student is doing emotionally, academically, and socially. I believe that this shows how much we matter. They also had a project on immigrants and refugees. A lot of the interviewees were Latinx and the students learned about people’s stories and life experiences. It makes me happy to see that Crosstown High cares. They don’t make me feel alone or out of place and it really does feel like I belong.
I did, however, notice that I’ve only had one Latinx teacher at Crosstown. In fact, I’ve only had one Latinx teacher, ever. I haven’t had any more role models who are Latinx at school, and I’m a ninth-grader. I don’t think it has affected me in a negative way, but I would have liked and still would love to have someone who is like me.
And I believe that it’s important to have a role model that reflects your image at school. I know kids at school whose lives would change in a positive way if they had a teacher or counselor that is like them. Maybe they wouldn’t feel like a minority or can understand a struggle another teacher might not have experienced.
Though I’m a Latina, I don’t feel like a minority. But that might be because of the way I look. I have white skin. I don’t “look Hispanic.” My family is in the middle class. My parents are American citizens. My dad is a politician and I speak English very well.
I’ve never had a personal experience with discrimination, and I have many connections that will help me in the future. And I am proud to be Latina, but I do not believe that I fit the “usual” Latinx person.
To me, being Latinx is part of who I am, and because I am privileged, I have to take the initiative to create a more welcoming community. My mom, Yancy Villa, is an activist artist, and my dad, Mauricio Calvo, is the director of Latino Memphis.
My whole family has always been very involved by going to city council meetings, marches, community events, and my parents are also on various boards of the city. We want to change the status quo for the better. We believe that the U.S. is very diverse, and that is a beautiful thing. But there is also the reality that not everyone is accepting and we have to change that.
If you are Latinx, then I want you to know that you should be proud of it. It is important for us to be involved so that we know what’s going on in our community, and do things such as participating in the city’s events and elections to make choices.
If you are registered and old enough, vote! That means having a voice in politics and helping everyone move forward.
It is important to embrace our culture too. Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, doing something at your school, anything counts. And this is also for non-Latinx students. Learning and being knowledgeable about the people around you who are different is crucial. Coexist with people who are like you and different. Be someone who is filled with acceptance and love.
I do have role models that are women and Latina, such as my mom, my aunts, grandmothers, and people such as America Ferrera, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I appreciate them because they are like me and want to be a similar reflection. For example, my mom and the last two women stand up for social justice, and it is amazing to have such great examples to help me in my future.
Whether you are Latinx or another race, the most important thing is to be yourself and set good examples for the people that follow you. Be a leader for what you believe is right. P.T. Barnum said, “No one made a difference by being like everyone else.”