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Letter: ‘I can outshine anyone’s expectations’

By Ariana Lopez, Worthington

I was born in Milwaukee, Wis., and then my family moved to Franklin, Wis. In Franklin it was filled with many middle-class individuals from all over the world. There wasn’t anything wrong with being a minority in Franklin because everyone was the same, no matter the color.

When my family and I moved to Worthington in third grade, everything changed. Worthington has a major slaughterhouse and meat packing plant where many undocumented immigrants from Mexico come to get jobs and provide for their families. Other minorities come to Worthington as well but more than 40 percent of the residents in Worthington are Hispanic, including me, my brother and my papa.

When going to elementary school, there wasn’t as much of a divide between minority students and Caucasian students. In middle school is when I got my first taste of racial profiling and discrimination. At the time, it was the eighth grade formal in a few weeks and I had convinced my mother to let me get a beautiful flowered dress. I excitedly texted all my friends about the dress and they told me that a boy from our class wanted to go with me as my date — I couldn’t believe it and was so excited to go with him. The boy and I started chatting at school and I couldn’t wait for the formal. The week of formal I got a text from the boy and he said “I’m sorry, I don’t want to go to the formal with a Mexican.” At the time I didn’t cry or get upset. I didn’t say or think anything, but at that time I made a subconscious agreement with my mind — that being Mexican was something to be ashamed of.

After that I made sure that no one knew my last name as that would be a dead giveaway of my minority status. On my social media I changed everything to “Ari Elizabeth” so no one could know that I was Mexican. In high school I made a point to only hang out with Caucasian students because I didn’t want people to know what I really was. That didn’t really make anything better. Throughout high school I suffered through many of my so-called ‘friends’ at the time saying things like “the only reason our school’s GPA is so bad is because of all the Mexicans.” I thought that going to college would be better and I would be able to embrace who I am. Instead I was faced with more comments like “I didn’t want to keep dating him because I didn’t want to end up marrying a Mexican and having babies that aren’t white or look like me.” I often find that I can’t talk about what I have written in this journal entry in person because I get so emotional, but it is a story I want to share. I want people to know that racially charged comments hurt — they make people doubt who they are and what they can do. I wish I could write at the end of this journal that I have overcome these insensitive remarks, and it made me who I am, but I cannot.

What I wrote here today is something I live with every day. It is a weight I carry with me. I believe that this is the reason I need and crave control, because I can’t control my skin color or the fact that my father is Mexican. I can try and control everything else. I want to show everyone around me and everyone who doubts what Mexicans can do — that I can outshine anyone’s expectations.