I still want to believe in the Dream

I still want to believe in the Dream (palomacruz.com)

Have you ever looked at a Magic Eye image? At first all you see is this colorful burst of random dots. But if you stare at it long enough, an image emerges …. hidden in plain sight. One moment it’s dots and the next moment this figure pops out, clear as day.

These days I feel like everyone else is seeing the dots while I see the image.
I can’t stop seeing the image.
And it fills me with dread.

I believe in the United States. And I say that to mean that I believe in the concept of this country, in the fundamentals of freedom and democracy on which it was created. (Yes, I know that it’s a republic … let’s not split hairs here.)

In this country, all men (and women) are created equal. At least that’s what we’re supposed to try to aspire to: a country where no one person is more valuable, more important than others based on gender, income, race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else.

In this country, we’re not supposed to victimize anyone in the pursuit of the greater good. “Small price to pay” is not a sentence we’re supposed to be using when talking about traumatizing innocent bystanders.

In this country, we’re supposed to hold truth as sacrosanct and expect education to count for something. Truth should not be something that’s fluid and changes based on the person who’s telling it.

In this country, media are supposed to be unbiased and objective. We should be able to trust that what we’re being told is fact and not a carefully crafted piece of fiction. And we should be able to trust that the news isn’t being influenced by the beliefs and priorities of journalists, news directors or media owners.

In this country, we have freedom of speech. And that applies to the people who agree with you as well as those whose beliefs are in opposition to yours. It also applies to those whose beliefs are so fundamentally opposite to yours that … well, you get the idea. But it doesn’t mean that you are allowed to incite violence. It doesn’t mean that you get to use your influence and power to bully those in opposition to you. It doesn’t mean that you get to go in front of a large audience and imply that violence would be a good solution to whatever ails you today.

In this country people are innocent until proven guilty. The assumption of guilt isn’t enough. The assumption that someone will do something at some point isn’t supposed to mean that they get thrown in jail, out of the country … or otherwise removed. There’s supposed to be trials, with due process and laws that are followed, laws that apply to everyone.

I hate that I can’t use the words “Make America Great.” I hate that it’s become this code for racism, xenophobia, and extremism.

I hate that I’m having arguments with people I love. I hate that I can see so clearly why they’re wrong and understand that they don’t get why I can’t or won’t agree with them.

I hate that suddenly political and education decisions are based on religion.

I hate that fear is a constant, growing feeling that’s a daily presence in my life.

Because you’re still seeing the dots, saying “look, how pretty!” and I’m staring in horror at the image they hide.


When I was growing up, living in México, I was Americana. I was born in the States and didn’t quite act Mexican and had a bit of an accent, so I was Americana.

It was a label I didn’t like. Contrary to the homegrown belief that Americans are all that, in México American girls are considered brainless and easy. Not the best thing to have precede you when you’re a teenager. Not the best stereotype to work against when you’re me. I approached it with my customary arrogant disregard for small-town politics and proved the theory right.

But that’s not today’s topic.

When I moved to Atlanta to live with my Dad, 17 years old, I became Mexican. In a city where my dark skin earned me the occasional hushed “are you Black?” and my Spanish warranted curious glances and worried looks, I guess Mexican was the best they could do.

I accepted the label, but I rejected the baggage that came with it. I was a living, breathing reminder that brown-skinned people are smart and interesting and hard working and badass (when we want to be). I accepted the label but hated the mocking, amused tone with which it was said. “She’s Mexican.” As if that one sentence defined everything that is me. As if that one word could describe who I am and what I am and what I believe.

So much idiocy, so little patience.

The culture shock I experienced when I moved to Houston defies description. After living in a place that was primarily brown then in a place that was primarily white, living in this café con leche, multicultural, multiracial, multilingual city was one hell of a shock. And I thought that I had finally found the one place where I belonged.

I was wrong and I was right.

Chicana. Latina. Hispana. Hispanic. Mexicana. Mexican. Mexican-American. Mexican American. American.

The words twirled around me in so many voices and with so many meanings it made me dizzy. “What are you?” they would demand. “What are you?” they would ask, speculation and interest in their eyes. Labels are important. Choose a label. Choose a label. Choose a label.

And it didn’t even matter if I said that I was Hispanic, Mexican-American or Chicana, there was always another test to fail, another proof of brownness that I wasn’t living up to. I was either talking white or acting white. Or the fact that I listened to top 40s pop music instead of Tejano meant that I wasn’t really brown enough. Or the fact that I’d had what could be considered a middle-class upbringing meant that I wasn’t really in tune with the issues. Or the fact that I don’t speak Spanglish meant that I was denying who I am. Or the fact that I am a Feminist was diluting the brown power movement by distracting from the real issues.

Blah, blah, blah. Words, words, words. Been there. Done that. Got over it. Get on with it.

Hispanic is the all-encompassing word that describes me, my family and my friends. It’s not the word that best describes us. It’s not the word I prefer. But I’ll accept it. And so, we are now in Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a weird month, starting at 16 de Septiembre and ending just after Día de la Raza (Columbus Day). It’s a month when my brown skin is celebrated and tolerated. Good thing too. I’m getting very tired of telling people off.

being political…

…is something I learned from my father. He was always ill at ease with his daughters, of which he had three and I was the oldest, and personal conversations were rare. The one thing he learned eventually, though, was that he could preach politics to me all day and I would sit there with a fascinated look on my face. Politics, I found, were a lot like soap operas. And being political, I learned, was just another way of expressing your opinion. It’s too bad that politics are such a taboo subject, something that is usually avoided as a topic of conversation. Teachers, community leaders and even families avoid the subject in an effort to not offend each other by having different opinions. Heaven forbid that differences should exist. And we all know that nobody is educated, tolerant or civil enough to respect the facts that other people may disagree with his/her views.

Sorry, folks. I’m just rambling on because I’m tired of the oh-so-polite atmosphere that I’ve been caught up in recently. People don’t say what they mean or think, and that doesn’t give other people a chance to expose them to new ideas. And that means that they will never change their ideals. And that’s scary and frustrating and all those other things that infuriate me. So I have this incredible urge to grab every person I see and demand to know that they think and would they please stop being so closed-mouthed about it? I know I’m not making a lot of sense, but anger does that to me. Talk to all of you soon.