"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're not sending you. They're not sending you. They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they're telling us what we're getting." – Donald Trump, Republican president candidate, Trump Tower Atrium in Manhattan on June 16, 2015
This quote still makes me shudder. It’s not the only quote that has made me shiver through-out this farce of an electoral campaign, but it is one that comes to haunt me in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. As a white woman the only discrimination I have ever faced has been due to my gender, and even then I can’t really say that it has been any worse than any woman on any given day. I benefit from this privilege every single day, most of the time without realizing it. I’ve always been an introvert, but one who has no issues standing up for myself and others. And I really can’t stand any type of discrimination, or anyone placing themselves above others. We are all human beings.
The thing is, I can continue to say that until I am blue in the face, and I can teach my children this, but I can’t stop the damage that other people’s words may cause them at any point in time. It’s no secret that racism is completely ingrained in this country, that immigration is always considered to be a huge cause of concern for people who have no idea what they are talking about, and that the colour of your skin can open or close doors. So much for a melting pot hey? If one of the two main presidential candidates can get away with publicly saying that most Mexican immigrants are rapists and that he wants to build a wall to keep them out, then we can’t be surprised that kids are going to pick up on this and think it’s a normal way of thinking. (I’m not going to even touch on what I’ve heard say about other minorities… The word “minority” actually annoys me terribly, because it’s mainly used to describe anyone who isn’t white).
To get to the point of the story, and why I am now affected by these types of quotes more than I was during the last election (I was more fired up about women’s rights at that time, still am), is that I now have a partner who is one of those rapist, drug dealing immigrants and we have two half Mexican, quarter English, quarter Welsh and fully US citizen daughters. Oh, and I also happen to be an immigrant, but because I’m white I suppose that doesn’t really make me a problem. So does this make our kids half drug dealer rapists? Or can we consider my partner to be one of few “good ones”? Oh gosh, I really messed up didn’t I, I should have thought about all of this before falling in love and having children! What on earth was I thinking?! Sarcasm aside, I wasn’t. Why should I have been thinking about that?
I always said that I would only have kids with someone who I knew would always be there for us. Someone I would spend the rest of my life with. That’s how I made my choice of partner. It’s about love and longevity for us; we are in it for the long haul, for good and bad, for the lows and the highs, all of that. I never once thought about our different backgrounds. Yes, there have been times that we have had to climb over a language barrier or two, but we are both pretty adept in that. I’ve always been surrounded by multiple languages anyway, so that didn’t change anything. But I never realised how racism and ignorance could affect us all on a daily basis. And it’s usually little things that you might not notice at first until they happen all the time.
Apparently it is impossible for people to write my kids’ last name properly, even when I spell it out for them. It is really two very common names with a hyphen in between. People write the names properly, but they seem to stick both names together, forget the hyphen or just go by the last name. If you look at doctors’ records, hospital records and health insurance cards their last name is written differently on each of them. I don’t know how many times I have had to say “their name is not Hughes, it’s Castro-Hughes!!”. I think Luna literally had three hospital records created by three different people because they didn’t input her name in properly.
Whenever I have to fill in some kind of form for anything there is always a space asking for your ethnicity. I know it’s supposed to be a way to ensure everyone is treated equally (although I’m not sure how that is supposed to work), but since I don’t want to pigeonhole the girls I usually don’t put anything. This was after a lengthy discussion with my other half on what we should do, knowing full well that if we checked the “white” box life might be a little easier for them… So you can imagine my surprise when I was reading through a routine child check up paper for Aurora and noticed that someone had marked her as “Hispanic”. So I then checked through Luna’s and hers said “White”. So even though we, as parents, had decided to not put anything, someone else had. And someone had decided, without much thought, to also separate my girls by ethnicity, which is exactly what we didn’t want to do.
Yes, the girls look like sisters, but they also look different. Luna is very pale and looks a lot like me as a kid, and Aurora has darker skin and looks just like her dad right now. But it’s very, very important to me that people don’t treat them differently, or at least don’t treat them differently because of their appearance. I already worry about the girls going to school and all of the ethnic jokes and slurs that I see adults throwing around quite happily be passed down to their kids, who will then use them without a second thought. I remember when I was at school in a different country it was bad enough; I don’t even want to imagine what it is like here. The American middle and high school system seems to be tough enough as it is, but with all of the hatred and fear that I see surrounding us I can’t imagine it getting any better or any easier. You only have to start reading the comments section of any political article to realize that people still segregate in their minds… How often do you hear or read the words “the Hispanics” or “the Blacks”?! But then how often do you ever hear “the Whites”? It’s as if people think it’s normal to group a bunch of people together because of their skin colour or language (even if their backgrounds are extremely diverse), but not so much for others.
If you have ever been treated differently because of your skin colour you will understand the fears I have for my daughters. I never have, but I see it happen on a regular basis. My partner is often treated differently. People assume he doesn’t speak English without even bothering to try, talking in a loud, slow voice as if he has a hearing problem. The neighbourhood we currently live in is predominantly white, with your visible Trump supporters scattered here and there, and I see the strange glances we sometimes get thrown our way. These things were a lot less noticeable when we strolled around the streets of NYC as a family talking in a mix of different languages. Everything fit in a little easier there. Sometimes I feel that we stick out somewhat, in both predominantly white and predominantly Hispanic areas, and we probably do. For example when we go to a Mexican restaurant I speak in English and Cesar speaks in Spanish, because I’m embarrassed that I don’t speak Spanish as well as I should. We don’t really fit into a neat little case, like all mixed families. I want our kids to embrace and enjoy all of our backgrounds, my upbringing and languages, Cesar’s, as well as the traditions of the country they were born in. I don’t ever want them to feel embarrassed about anything.
Anyway, I guess my issue is that while I want to protect my children from all of this, at the same time I want them to be aware of the prejudices and judgments that people carry around with them. I don’t ever want them to be surprised and I want them to be able to rise above ignorance, intolerance and hatred. I also don’t want them to fall prey to the feeling that they may be superior or inferior to others because of skin colour, money, gender, sexual orientation or anything else. We will do our best to build a strong foundation of individuality, compassion, love and strength within them, but I can only hope that the current climate in society won’t put a wedge in all of this. I know it’s a bit of a utopia, that perfect world I dream of where everyone accepts each other as they are, but I would like to think that if all of us like-minded individuals stick together, one day we can maybe hope for a better world for our kids where we celebrate differences rather than outcast them, or make them feel inferior.
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
This article originally appeared on The Honest Confessions of a NICU Mum