On Attending a Majority White School

On Attending a Majority White School

Aileen Resendiz

Feeling different is something that almost everybody feels in their life and most of the time, it passes over as people age and discover who they are. Although I’m only 15, I’ve come to terms with who I am as a person and feeling different when it comes to my personality is a hurdle I’ve already jumped and landed on the other side of. When it comes to feeling different physically and culturally, I’m not sure if that will ever be something I’ll pass. I’m Mexican American – my dad is a Mexican immigrant, and my mom’s parents are from Mexico – and going to a predominantly white high school can be kind of confusing for a multitude of reasons.

For example in English class, we had a brief history lesson that had to do with European immigrants. My teacher said, “I’m sure many of your ancestors came from Europe too.” It suddenly hit me right then that I was one of maybe two kids in that class who had any DNA from Latin America. The thought of where our ancestors came from also reminded me of an activity we did in 7th grade with a big world map that spanned across half the back of the classroom’s wall and a tiny, circular orange sticker. My social studies teacher told us to put the sticker down on the country that our ancestors came from. Germany was full of stickers. The UK and Ireland seemed overloaded for such a small plot of land. Spain and Italy were full as well. Then there was my sticker, all alone in the western hemisphere, sitting right in the middle of Mexico.

It was the first time I really realized how different my ancestry seemed to be from theirs. I mean of course I had thought about it and knew that we definitely didn’t come from the same areas, but seeing it on a visual where everybody was across the pond and there was just me in the Americas was a little isolating. Especially given the political climate: Trump had just been elected as president. It was crazy to me that my classmates’ parents voted for a guy who painted immigrants – like my family – out to be horrible people, yet I seemed more American than any of them. But that was none of my business I guess.

Of course, different places of origin come with different cultures as well. I only recently thought about what white people eat for Christmas. For me, it’s always been tamales and a whole day of making them with my family. It was crazy to me that people basically just had a second Thanksgiving meal, or maybe just ham, as their dish for the holiday. It’s always kind of weird during school when all your friends are talking about cranberry sauce and ham, and you’re thinking about tamales de queso.

For me, I’ve never went to school in an area with a majority of Hispanics or people of color in general. I’ve never 100% related to the people around me, but my cousins, who live in LA, do go to a school with where there is a majority of Hispanic kids. The thought of constantly being surrounded by people who share my culture and come from the same place as my family honestly just seems impossible at this point. It’s also led to some weird thoughts – I have no Hispanic friends.  My cousins have barely any white friends. I don’t act like them, either. I don’t use Spanish and English words interchangeably because nobody at my school would have any idea what I was saying. I also don’t speak Spanish as fluently as the rest of my family.

It’s also been conflicting because sometimes I don’t feel Mexican enough. I’m not speaking Spanish at home, I’m not celebrating my culture the way I’d like to, and I hang out with a bunch of white kids. I used to feel differently about some of this though. Being different makes you want to be like everyone else at first. There’s been plenty of times I’ve wanted to be white and now I don’t really understand why. Being Hispanic is something I’ve become extremely proud of and I’m learning how to love it more every day. Despite the fact that I’m not like many other kids at Mountain Ridge culturally, I love where my roots lay and wouldn’t wish for them to be switched to anywhere else on earth.