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Alex Villa
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Unlearning Post-colonialist Classism and Racism

January 01, 2021

Unlearning Latin American Classism and Racism

Happy New Year humans.

Tonight, it's the unavoidable "year in review" obsession that occupies my thoughts.

I've come to understand that more than mindlessly waiting for the New Year to be a fresh start with no baggage, the real power of the New Year's Ritual are not related to planning for the future through wishes and looking for a blank page.

What if we start feeling ok with the page not being blank, but with choosing to celebrate the best of this last iteration and look behind as the only way ahead?

I'm finding myself in this space tonight. Reflecting on the biggest learnings I've had this year.

  1. Striving to distribute and create wellness an basic happiness for as many people as possible the most important responsibility as a human is the only way to a peaceful life, for me.

  2. The privilege of living in a city where I get to meet people from many races and backgrounds, that come together with similar ideals of peace and justice, is the most wonderful gift I received from life this year.

  3. I'm carrying the weight of the guilt, classism and racism I learned from my upbringing in a lower-income Mexican family. And this is the most important thing I need to leave behind.

I think about this as I watch Merkel's New Year's speech for the second time today, while pausing it to hear Ellen Allien DJing a techno set from her Berlin balcony.

Merkel's speech was such a wonderful display of equalizing political energy, even while coming from a right-center party. She helps me understand how blurred the lines are. I'm coming to terms with the fact that her political discourse (and actions) help in making Germany a kinder ground for immigrants.

This ground is far from perfect, but I feel something here that I never felt anywhere else: respected, just because I exist as a member of society.

Yet, I'm lucky to even be able to experience a different form of being. I'm not saying this is better, but I'm admiting my privilege, which came from luck. I could use my personal story to come up with a "self-made-woman" fable, but the reality is: I was in the right places, at the right time, with the right people. Luck and misfortune are as chaotic as the concept of entropy applied to social sciences can be.

The first step towards recognizing my privilege, is to understand that I have it and it was never about "deserving" it. Guilt regarding social mobility can be a bitch.

How do I move past the guilt of having normalized an environment where post-colonialist racism, shadism and misogyny hurt people I loved in front of my eyes and I couldn't see it?

It’s hard to describe how much it fucks up with your self-confidence and therefore, energy, to grow up believing that your class and income define the type of things you're entitled to have, and how respected you are in society.

Tonight, I have to accept that my upbringing in a colonized society tried to teach me that privilege is something that you have to “deserve”, something that is earned through hard work, and if you’re not living a comfortable life, it’s because you’re lazy. And lazy people don’t deserve money from the government, so fuck the idea of taxes being used for social wellfare.

My upbringing happened in a lower-income, working class family the migrated to Tijuana and grew up looking up to the blonde American gods in San Diego during our escapades, this upbringing taught me that I should strive to look as white as possible in order to "succeed".

It taught me that I should strive to deny my indigenous roots and live up to my Spanish ancestry. That I was more Spanish than Aztec. More British Pirate than Mayan.

That my family would always lament about how my great grandmother didn’t accept the marriage proposal from Hans, the German dude that was into her but was obviously a nazi escaping Europe, that it didn’t matter if he was a nazi, we would still be better people.

My family literally instructed me to find mates that led us to “mejorar la raza” (“improve the race”).

I understood that this statement was not a joke as I grew up watching my mom, grandmother and great grandmother criticizing my uncle’s partners based on how darker they were, bringing them down with racial slurs, while strongly preaching that their boys should have ended up with higher class, whiter ladies.

This discourse preveailed even though my youngest uncle is heavily more dark-skinned than his older brothers. When I asked about his father, they would deny anyone else on my grandma's life and assured me that she kept on meeting up just with the white husband that abandoned her after the first two kids.

They defended the blood of the douchebag that showed my mom a gun when she asked him to support my grandmother.

I never understood this obsession with whiter skin as being superior, to be completely honest. I think I owe it to the fact that:

  1. My dad's family has way more indigenous ancestry on their blood

  2. My uncle married a dark-skinned woman that was belitled by my mother's family.

This woman happened to become my Godmother. Her name was Norma, she was my second mother, our skins or DNA stories didn’t matter, she could never have a kid, but she adopted me like her own. She was the only one that knew that I was gay before I said anything, and the only one that accepted me and loved me through my coming out story.

The one that took me with her to Las Vegas, as her partner in crime and translator. She knew I wouldn't judge the social situation of her nephew, living in Las Vegas.

But my mother and grandma still gave my Godmother a hard time, no matter how much of her energy and love she dedicated to them. It was until the day she died that they valued her love and understood that she was a balancing force that made us all better.

The classism tale from my family is a story that I’m struggling to unlearn.

I wish North Americans cared less about our fucking skin shade for fuck’s sake.

I've come to realize that the ultimate thing that can bring peace of mind for a human is to help others in living a better life. To accept our diversity and become wealthier through these social connections. Because only by caring about the lives of others, we get to understand even more about ourselves.

Also, that acknowledging our privileges is healthy, because we get to be grateful, and to use it to level up the field for others.

This is gonna sound very new-agey for some, but hear me out: nothing feels as good as seeing people around you being happy. If people around you are not thriving with you, all the money in the world won't buy you peace of mind.

But then again, if a pandemic can't convince you that we're all hyper-connected, nothing will.

Sigh. It's been a very hippie year for my soul. And just maybe, I have a higher calling in social sciences that I've allowed myself to admit before.

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