I’m not someone who grew up thinking of themselves as having a lot of privilege. Quite the opposite. In fact, I can remember being only a small girl when my mother explained to me that my life was going to be harder than others’ because “I’m a minority,” as she put it at the time. I’m a woman (even as a small child she referred to my future adult self as one that would necessarily involve discrimination by virtue of being born female, and because I’m Hispanic (the term she used). This was the 70’s, before the language of liberation in the community shifted toward the term “Latino,” to be more inclusive of it’s multiracial roots, to encompass native people, Africans, and white colonizers from the Iberian peninsula; and shifted again to include all gender identities with the more recent term “Latinx.”
I can remember stories about my father, Puerto Rican, being ridiculed and bullied for his Spanish accent, even at relatively diverse Hunter College in NYC. As a result, my learning Spanish was never a priority in our home; speaking perfect, unaccented English was the priority. I’ve always found it ironic, and more than a little painful, that some of the most fluent Spanish speakers I know are white Americans. They have had the privilege of learning a language in college, often studying for a year or more abroad, without the baggage, or fear, of being called a spic for using a language that isn’t English.