Living In Southern California As A Mexican-American

Submitted By samano723
Words: 1742
Pages: 7


“There is a drill that nearly all Asians in America have experienced more times than they can

count. Total strangers will interrupt with the absurdly existential question “What are you?” Or the

equally common inquiry “Where are you from?”...”(1) Living in Southern California as a “Hispanic

American”, I have definitely received those same exact questions countless times. Although I know

they are of good intention, I usually like to throw out the answer they weren't looking for and watch

them get frustrated with my not so serious answer. I'm sure Mission Hills, California doesn't seem as

“exotic” as Sinaloa, Mexico might sound (which is where my father is from), but I would still much

rather be here than over there. Even though we are only a few hours away from Tijuana, Mexico; I still

haven't even been to any part of Mexico. However, my eventual answer is that my heritage, or

“ethnicity” is Mexican-American.

Helen Zia needed someone to question the origin of her name, actually guessing if it was

Pakistani, to help her awaken her own personal American revolution. Up until then, Zia was, “someone

living in the shadows of American society...”(1). Later on, while discussing civil rights with her friend

Rose, Rose badgered her saying, “Helen, you've got to decide if you're black or white.”(1). Problem

was, she still wasn't really sure what she saw herself as, since the term “Asian American” hasn't been

coined yet. The problem with racially identifying yourself, is that it is a complicated mixture of

information that you absorb sub-consciously, “Everybody learns some combination, some version, of

the rules of racial classification, and of their own racial identity, often without obvious teaching or

conscious inculcation. Race becomes "common sense"—a way of comprehending, explaining and

acting in the world.”.(5) The main problem is, when you ask an Asian-American to racially define

themselves, they may have trouble defining themselves, similar to Helen Zia, not being sure exactly

what she is. Zia felt that other “Americans” viewed her as the enemy, so she would be discriminated

even though she wasn't the person we were fighting at the time, let alone the correct “race”. Victor

Wong went through similar situations, referring to his face as, “the face of the enemy.”(3). While we

may have only been at war with one country from Asia at a time, whether it be with China, Japan,

Vietnam, Korea, etc., The average American who wasn't out to war with a gun, was at war with all

Asians in their own communities using their hard head as their weapon instead, and boy was it

effective. This mindset that people have against Asian groups, turns them into “perpetual

foreigners”(4), who no matter how long they live in the United States, they will always be labeled as

foreigners from another country. It is not fair that we treat the ancestors of those who came here in the

1800's, working hard in the mines, and plantations, helping build the nation to what it is today, with

disrespect. Even if it is not a direct ancestor, we should not be prejudiced towards any Asian group,

because we all did our part in developing this nation, so we all deserve a piece of the proverbial

American pie.

Choosing your race seems like something that is not up to you, it seems like something that

other people make up to help define you so they can single you out and put you into some group.

However, “The effort must be made to understand race as an unstable and "decentered" complex of

social meanings constantly being transformed by political struggle.”(5). Victor Wong said he had to

“make my own manual to live in this country.” because being Asian-American was not simple. Race is

not set in stone, since it is a mixture of many forces that come together to define the race, it constantly

change from time