Yo Soy

Nellely Azpeitia, Reporter

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Im 39 years old. I’ve lived in this country for 18 years; it has taken my youth and it has turned my solid hands rough. When I accepted the new factory job my spirit faltered. I didn’t like it, but my family needed the benefits so I pretended to be excited. A year in this new job, a young boy (the essence of innocence painted over him) entered the workplace. I had finally earned a more important position that gave me a sense of pride, of importance. My boss casually mentioned he would give him a chance, and he replaced me. I tried not to think about why they would bump me down after working so hard to earn the spot and he had just entered without any experience, not about how I had a thick accent when I spoke English, not the color of my skin, not because I wasn’t born here. 

I’m 19 years old. I wasn’t born in this country but all my memories live here: they were created here. I work in a small restaurant. Sometimes people will ask, “Do only Mexicans work here?” My heart beats slightly faster when I answer. What exactly am I supposed to say? Why am I starting to get used to this question? One day several families entered through the narrow doorway; the men wore Confederate flags on their jackets. It was hard not to notice. Every time I approached them the men would turn away coldly, never speaking a word when I asked: “Is everything tasting okay?”  I could sense eyes staring at me, accusingly, disapprovingly, disgustingly all day long. I try not to think why these people stare, not my brown skin, not because I wasn’t born here.

I’m 38 years old. In my time living here, 16 years, I’ve only worked in fast food restaurants. I don’t have many options. One day I heard a commotion from the kitchen in my job back then, a burger place, when I poked my head out to see what was occurring. I saw a blonde mom screaming at my manager. She was upset because they had put onions in her burger, even though she never noted she didn’t want any. We watched from the kitchen and when the lady finally finished her tantrum we slowly moved back inside. But I will never forget her words as she stormed away: “Go back to your country, f*cking Mexicans”.

I’m 17 years old. I’ve experienced racism several times. I’ve been humiliated. I’ve been stared up and down. I’ve seen the fear up close, I feel it in my bones and I wonder why? Why does my mother stay silent as a woman yells at her for doing laundry? “Go back to your ranch.” Why is my father mistreated at his work? Why do I stay silent when these moments happen? It’s because we’re scared. I’m scared, scared that one day one of us will be taken away. Usually I try not to think about it because I always attempt to convince myself that others have it worse. I mean I live in California, one of the most accepting states. But I’ve realized how much I’ve conformed to these moments and it’s not okay. It’s not okay that a child, only six years old, is told that she doesn’t deserve to live in this country. Why does a single person have the right to dictate that? It’s not okay that she remembers the moment clearly to this day. And I sincerely ask, why do people do this? Anyone should be allowed to live in this country regardless of race. People should not conform to being oppressed with racist comments and actions. This it is why it continues. People shouldn’t be afraid to defend themselves or their loved ones. People shouldn’t even be worried about this, people shouldn’t experience these moments, not the embarrassment, not the anxiety, not the dread that slowly crushes your soul every time it occurs. We were all born the same way. We may look different, but in the end we are all human. This I believe.

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