“Why are you talking in a British accent ?” When I was in the 5th grade, I was suddenly asked this question. At first, I confused as to why I would be asked this. I was most certainly speaking American English just as plainly as one would hear anyone speak in the northeastern United States. I asked my classmate what he meant by “British accent,” although I was sure I already knew what it meant. He was implying that because I am a minority, as opposed to being white, I could not be well spoken let alone educated. It was one thing when I was underestimated by people of a different ethnicity, but it was particularly disheartening since he was a fellow Hispanic. He was trying to say that because I am not white, I am therefore not educated. In his eyes, the only way to be educated was through the color of my skin. As if the only criteria that qualified being educated was being white, implying that the two terms were interchangeable and synonymous with each other. That level of ignorance and prejudice truly opened my eyes to the society we live in today, where we are taught self-hate and are criticized for the things that make us unique. I was terrified of that dangerous mindset and, although it was disturbing, that clash of ideologies gave me greater insight into my future prospects. I would not let my self-worth be defined by the misconceptions of the weak-willed, who would allow these stigmas reign with unrivaled deference. Even so, I could not find myself feeling any malice or ill will towards this boy. He like many others, fell victim to a lack of self-regard, belittling others due to lack of their own self-esteem and shortcomings.
“Stop acting white,” he said as if to clarify, further justifying my beliefs. I later found out that his bigoted views are clearly shared amongst many, as this was not the last time I heard a similar sentiment. People often assume that my culture and socioeconomic background tether me to racial stigmas. I am perceived as “ghetto”, “uneducated”, and “inarticulate”, simply because of where I come from.
Once I became cognizant of my situation, I began to resent the overarching stigmas that set limitations on my success. As a child, I was always taught to be proud of my heritage, but I was disappointed to discover that others viewed it as a hindrance to my education. It was upon this realization that the fanciful idealism of childhood, was shattered. I grew to be cynical about humanities fixed views. I made it my mission to become the aberration that would not only supersede, but prevail societal stereotypes. Education would be the vessel in which I overcame this societal mandate.
Through the accumulation of knowledge, I was able to edify myself to the point at which failure was no longer an option. This, in turn, has given me the drive and determination to overcome any obstacle and or barriers that attempt to deter me from accomplishing my goals. Education would give me access to a world of limitless possibilities. No longer, would I be restrained by the false barriers and platitudes of those who would condescend me?
The more experienced I become, the more I realize that life is a continuous learning process and, that the quest for education is a lifelong journey. I firmly believe in the power of education. It is my personal mantra that if armed with the proper knowledge we are capable of achieving any goal we can imagine, and or reach any level in society that we dare to aspire, despite the expectations of others. I would not have come to this realization, if not, for the boy in 5th grade, who asked me, to “stop acting white”.