The acceptance of my ethnic heritage is a personal triumph that is paradoxically linked to the racial marginalization MEChA counteracts on a regular basis. Growing up, I deliberately chose not to identify as Latino, fearing negative associations and wanting the social ease I linked with being “white”. Having a fair complexion, in the context of majoritarian skin-based racial constructions, gave me the freedom to project my preferred racial identity. The customs of my people were archaic remnants of a culture rendered inadequate by those around me. When people assumed I was white, I never corrected them.
Coming to Yale radically altered my stagnant perceptions of race and ethnicity. I came to understand the multiple ways in which people expressed their Latina/o identity beyond my internalized white-brown-black paradigm. My classes taught me the dynamics of skin-based privilege and the Latinas/os I met gave me the courage to define my own identity and not allow inaccurate and pervasive racial categories to dictate my actions.
Another aspect of coming to New Haven that propelled me to dismantle my previous conceptions of Latinidad came from the scarcity of students and professors who identified as Hispanic, and on a larger scale, the vast inequalities prevalent in the local community. Being at Yale provided me with ample opportunity to engage in acts that worked to dispel racial adversity. I began to see my Latina/o identity as not only something to be proud of, but also as a constant reminder of why the fight against oppression needs to continue.
I have come to see academia as my place in ameliorating the racial inequalities that exist in society. By becoming a professor, I hope to utilize my formative experiences with race and ethnicity in ways that give agency to communities that continue to receive harsh regulation. The opportunity to study and conduct research on subjects like the social phenomena that engendered my sense of Latinidad would be incredible. As daunting as the task may be, I aspire to add my voice to the collective knowledge of esteemed trailblazers and look for new ways to interpret racial identity.