Growing up, I never really thought about race. I had friends of different races, but it didn’t mean anything. I knew they had different beliefs, food and looks, but it still didn’t matter. I guess this could be considered ignorance. But like the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss.”
When I got a little bit older, I moved to a neighborhood that was predominately one race, not my race. At first things were fine, I had friends, but we were still young. It wasn’t until I was in high school when things changed. I went to a high school in this neighborhood and things were still alright. I still had my friends and life went on. It didn’t occur to me the little jokes and comments they made about the Mexicans working on the side of the road or cleaning our school should offend me, not only as a Hispanic person, but just a person in general. These people were here for the sole purpose of trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. These were my people that my friends were making fun of. And throughout high school, I hated my race, my culture. I was so ashamed of it.
When I went off to college, I had a change of heart. My freshman year at college I really began to embrace my culture and became proud. But I, then, became angry at my “friends” from high school. Who were they to put down my culture, to make me feel ashamed for being Hispanic? I began to hate them, to hate everyone like them. I ignored their phone calls and emails. I was bitter, all around, to everyone in my life during this period. That’s all I thought about. I was actually dwelling on how these people, whom I considered friends, for the past couple years had made me ashamed to be something I will never be able to change. I talked to my mom all the time about everything and she always listened. One day she asked me a simple question. She asked, “Who was ashamed?” The answer, too, was simple: me. And I began to think about that. I was the one who was ashamed. I let them talk like that. I never stood up to them; had I done that, they probably would have supported me for being who I am. So basically, I lost a year of my life hating people and being bitter because I was ashamed of who I was.
Today, I can honestly say, I am proud of who I am. I support my heritage and others. I have forgiven myself and my friends. Going through this was rough, but it has given me insight and understanding throughout all aspects of my life. I wouldn’t have changed anything about the way this happened.
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