SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2004        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Jeanette Millan

Some Mexican Chick

I was born and raised in Stockton, California, where diversity is visible from Mexicans, African Americans, Chinese, Japanese, to Caucasians. Then, I moved to Yuma, Arizona, a place where Mexicans are viewed as the dominant group because we form the vast majority of the population.  And now, I live in Phoenix, Arizona at Las Casas; a place where Mexicans are few in number, but negatively categorized in greater proportion.

Las Casas at Arizona State University West tries to place incoming residents with individuals that share common interests such as music, food, hobbies, and the like.  However, I was put into a dormitory with a Mexican girl who has an entirely distinct nationality and culture from my own.  Living with her became somewhat of a challenge, given that college life is an entirely new and diverse environment from high school.  We both were incoming freshman and conversed occasionally about our family, friends, and high school. I discovered that she came to Phoenix from Yuma, Arizona without knowing a single soul which helps to explain why she kept to herself most of the time.

Annoying laughter and loud whispers awoke me between three and four in the morning in my dormitory.  These disturbing noises came from my living room.  Eaves dropping was inevitable; the only separation between both rooms was a wall and everything could have easily been heard by a deaf person.  My suite-mate and her friends carried on an English speaking only conversation about a subject that was ironically unusual for me.

Our dormitory living room was the hangout place for my Caucasian friends throughout the entire academic year.  One night as my friends and I hung out in the living room one of my friends questioned me about my suite-mate out of curiosity.  I responded by saying “some Mexican chick that is always in her room” and continued conversing, eating pizza, and playing cards with each another.  The night continued and we suddenly realized that the sun was shining through the blinds.

“Who lives with you,” someone asked my suite-mate. Her response to this question took me by surprise as she answered “some Mexican chick” and laughter arose.  The words have not yet been invented to define and explain what I felt as I heard myself referred to as being inferior to them.  Deep inside me I knew that my ethnicity made me a minority in the United States.

Coming from Yuma, Arizona, a city near the Mexican border, diversity was somewhat rare to me because the dominant group can be considered to be Mexican.  Caucasians, African Americans and what we in the dominant group in Yuma refer to as non-Mexicans live in Yuma as well but are seen in drastically smaller numbers.  To better understand my color blindness and perspective on diversity an example is essential: a fluent English and Spanish speaking individual is better qualified for employment than a non-Spanish speaking person in Yuma, Arizona.

Surprisingly, being called “some Mexican chick” opened up my eyes to a world of racism and discrimination in which we reside because of the negative remarks from non-Mexican individuals.  To my suite-mate and her friends, Mexicans are viewed as outsiders since they are accustomed to a white privilege wealthy world where Mexicans are devalued.  Yet, my first reaction to hearing these words was to cry, yell, scream, fight, throw a tantrum, run away, and return to Yuma.  I guess the reason why I controlled these strong emotions was because I knew my voice would be overheard.  Ironically, I have experienced diversity throughout my entire life to the extent that I have learned that appearances are the least important to categorize a person.  But to hear such a derogatory talk inside a dorm that bears a Spanish name, and thus seems to suggest openness to Mexican culture difference, took me by surprise.  And, to listen to people who are in the process of pursuing a higher education unconsciously discuss an issue in which they devalued a minority in relation to white society was truly an eye opener for me.

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