As a Latino – Abel Arroyo

Linda Thomas at CTS eventThis week I am teaching an intensive course called Identity and Difference: Theological Reflection on Race/Ethnicity; Gender/Sexuality; Class/Political Economy or Theological Reflection on Intersectionality. Our purpose is to critically investigate the concept of identity by reading primary sources on the categories of race, gender, sexuality and class, and our goal is to explore the ways that the scholars we read and we ourselves address contemporary challenges of racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism/homophobia. Part of the job of being a leader in a Public Church is to develop alternative models for the transformation of religious institutions for witness in the world, and by doing so push religious communities towards becoming spaces of greater inclusion and welcome.

As a compliment to this class, today we will be featuring a marvelous blog post by recent LSTC graduate Abel Arroyo Traverso. A reflection upon his life as a Latino, as well as his time in seminary, he gives us a good look at what it means to deal with intersectionality, whiteness, and what it means to self-affirm. Read comment and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


 

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Street fair in Miami.

While at LSTC, as a Latino has been one of the phrases that I’ve learned to say almost compulsively. As a Latino has become a kind of mantra, a battle cry, as well as gospel and a grounding phrase. Living and serving in Chicago, I learned that the only things that are acknowledged by others are those that are said bluntly and loudly, and as a Latino is the start of my journey into that practice of self-affirmation.

Timely affirming one or more of my identities – such as man, cisgender, queer, Latino, and beloved child of God, to name a few – became a need for the first time in class, when I learned in an Old Testament class, that the professor wouldn’t grade one of my papers because “it was too culturally biased” to which I replied “well, yes, they all are.” I got a passing grade. That was good enough.

 

And this was when I learned, vividly, that as much as academia tries to break the elements of my identity down – my gender, my sexuality, my ethnic back-ground, immigration and economic status – in order to quantify and qualify who I am, they can’t. All of these over-lap, in classic intersectionality, creating a web of privilege and marginalization that will be a permanent part of my life (for example, I am an immigrant and suffer because of racism, but as an immigrant who is now a naturalized citizen of the United States I have unquestionable advantages over someone who was where I was one year ago, or who has no documents at all). But acknowledging was, sometimes, too hard for the people in school.

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From then on, I learned that in academia the default was white, the normal was US upper middle class. I wasn’t any of those things, so by reclaiming my own labels, I embarked in a journey of creation and reinvention.

As a Latino, I learned to claim my roots as not only welcomed in the ELCA, but to recognize them as necessary for its survival. This also means that as a Christian, I bring particular gifts to the body of Christ, and as a person looking to be ordained in the ELCA as a minister of Word and Sacrament, I bring into the conversation a gift of bridging cultures.

As a Latino, I learned that talking about how down one is with the idea of community doesn’t mean that a person is actually willing to be in community. I learned that it’s easier for people to interact with my multitude of identities through an academic filter rather than acknowledging that as a person, I have specific needs as real as my need for air and water, and just as necessary for my survival. 

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LSTC students and faculty traveling in India.

As a future pastor, and as someone who is expected to do competent theological reflection, I learned that I will always need to educate people about my cultural understanding of community, accompaniment, who Christ and Jesus are, and why those labels carry a deep significance for me and my community.

As a Latino, I learned that it is my responsibility to remind students, professors, pastors, and authorities that Latinx, Liberation, Mujerista and Queer, are no longer terms, theories, and theologies to be examined and approached as a distant other, but rather, they are just as valid and should be considered just as seriously in a classroom, parish, and synod as any – or could I perhaps dare to dream, over- exclusively white theology.

As a Latino I’m not only Latino, and as much as I AM Latino, I am any and all of my intersecting identities as well. Fully and unashamedly.

I learned that as a Latino the church needs my experience, my knowledge and my whole self to survive. I am willing to give it my all for my call, a call that is God given. What I won’t let happen is let myself become a vehicle for the dominant culture to perpetuate the discounting of the Latinx experience of God, and the multitude of gifts the Latinx community bring.

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Me and my beloved parents.

As a Latino, I learned that my theology is formed in community, that it’s multidisciplinary, that my theology is one grounded in liberation and the cross, and as a pastor my strength is the strength that comes from my community, and the Holy Spirit that works through it.

I learned that I can navigate spirituality not as a trend to shop for the spiritual practice of the month, but as a reality that connects me to my ancestors, a reality that allows me to access the wisdom of those who came before me, to know that listening to the songs of creation is not pagan but it’s recognizing God’s voice ringing through the fullness of the cosmos.

I learned that embracing ambiguity is not only good because Lutheranism and Luther embrace ambiguity, but also because that’s what the spirit inspires in me, to look for the ambiguities. I am called to be a witness where some people think that it’s a waste of time to witness. I learned to know God not only as creator and father but as God of many and all things, journeys, and times.

God of everything good and delicious.

God of every pain and indulgence.

God of every breath.

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I believe in the sacredness of my skin and my accent, in the holiness of my shortcomings, I believe that God prefers me, as one of the poor, and that I should never be ashamed of that.

As a Latino I believe in engaging my feelings. I administer my time in a different way and prioritize relationship to punctuality. I believe in ranking my priorities in a different way than my white colleagues, and that’s okay. I believe in standing up for myself, but I will always be more willing and ready to stand up for someone else, which is why I need to trust that my community has my back.

In my time at LSTC, as a Latino I’ve experienced a number of realities, a multitude of spaces, people, classes, services, parties, meals, hugs, tears, laughs, and tea. As I prepare to move on from this part of my education, I believe that the God who brought me here will never ever abandon me.

As a Latino, I believe this. I can do no other.


11218883_10207263354805841_6667861799582009906_n.jpgAbel Arroyo is a graduate from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Originally from Perú, his journey has taken him to explore almost all of Central and North America (no love for Canada yet). He has spent parts of his journey in Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico as well as living in Washington state, Arizona, and California. A bona fide wanderer who struggles with linear time as an absolute, he is currently in Phoenix, Arizona where he journeys with the Queer, Latino and Homeless communities of Central Phoenix – as well as the occasional suburbanite. All are welcome.

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On Caves and Histories – Joel Morales Cruz, Ph.D.

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Finding what is lost and reclaiming what has been stolen are common themes in Scripture. So imagine if the power and peace and justice when the “things” found or reclaimed are your history, your songs, your memories and songs. LSTC alumnus Joel Cruz, Ph.D. writes about a recent trip he took Puerto Rico, both for the sake of reconnecting with his family’s roots, but also to reclaim history stolen from the people of island – whether by Spanish colonialism or United States imperialism. Read, comment, and share, friends.


Over the Labor Day weekend I had the pleasure of touring the famous Window Caves in Puerto Rico, a four million year old cave system replete with bats and swallows that eventually opens up over a majestic view of the countryside seven hundred feet below.

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Parts of the allure of the caves are the petroglyphs – rock carvings– left by my Taíno ancestors centuries ago. I took a moment to talk to the guide about the indigenous mythology of the earth, and specifically caves, serving as wombs of creation from which the people emerged from darkness into light. It is a worldview found throughout the Americas. From there the conversation took an interesting turn as we spoke of the myth of Taíno extinction and how research into mitochondrial DNA has revealed the survival of the Taíno into modern times. We continued, touching upon the control over history-telling by the colonial powers, first the Spanish and then the United States.

Generations of Puerto Rican children, including those in my family, were taught that the island had no natural resources (despite the fact that agricultural and mining companies were harvesting said resources out in the countryside!) and that Puerto Ricans had no history of their own; that US citizenship was a gift conferred upon the population in 1917 despite not having been “worthy” of it. They were told that Puerto Ricans, unlike the Cubans, never rebelled against the Spanish — the well-known Grito de Lares of 1868 and other smaller revolts notwithstanding. However, in the last several decades those long-taught assumptions have been challenged and Puerto Ricans on the island and the mainland have sought to reclaim their history and their contributions to culture, sports, music, art, literature, and religion.

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Museum of the Americas – San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I found an example of this a few days later in the Museum of the Americas, located in the former barracks of the Spanish and US occupying forces in Old San Juan. Its mission is to simply focus on the indigenous and African roots of American history (the continent, not just the US)  in order to make the invisible visible again. Though small, it is nonetheless powerful as it recounts the stories of native resistance and survival to conquest, of the African heartbeat that pulses through our food, music, and arts, of the social and political movements in Puerto Rico that sought dignity and liberation throughout the centuries of colonization – one the museum notes continues into the present day.

The process of reclaiming one’s history is integral both to the sense of identity and to the future survival of any community, especially during times of social, political, and demographic upheaval. This act is so important that the Brazilian theologian, Rubem Alves likened it to a sacrament:

“The historian is someone who recovers forgotten memories and disseminates them as a sacrament to those who have lost the memory. Indeed, what finer community sacrament is there than the memories of a common past, punctuated by the existence of pain, of sacrifice, and of hope? – to recover in order to disseminate. The historian is not an archaeologist of memories. He (sic) is a sower of visions and hope.”

In our efforts to decolonize our own Lutheran backyard it is imperative that we not forget the task of decolonizing our historical memory. As the center of world Christianity continues its southward trek and as the demographics of this country changes, our own tradition should become aware of the role Lutherans have played on the larger global stage as well as the voices and contributions of those who do not reflect an assumed German-Scandinavian background — both as a matter of historical perspective and humility and a recognition of the work God has been doing among communities of color.

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#decolonizeLutheranism

One of the most tangible ways in which congregations are aware of our larger heritage is in our calendar of festivals and commemorations that are printed in our bulletins and websites weekly, marking the women and men who have impacted our tradition and the greater Church. Recovering the sacrament of memory might include an update to our calendar that gives larger place to those from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the ethnic traditions in our country beyond the litany of early church, reformation, and more obscure European names we are accustomed to hearing.

Let us decolonize the calendar.

Additionally, the prayers composed throughout time by other communities as they wrestle with God’s Spirit in the world can help enrich our worship through new words, metaphors, and perspectives. These can, at the same time, bring us closer to the lives and struggles of our brothers and sisters elsewhere.

Let us decolonize the liturgy.

The teaching of church histories in our universities and seminaries can no longer be limited to the long-discredited tale of early Christianity brought into Europe and later into North America some unspoken culmination. Nor can our own Lutheran story be divorced from either the global histories of conquest and exploitation or the struggles of the people who experienced it around the world. Professors of color, women, and sexual minorities will be integral in this task.

Let us decolonize our schools.

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The process of recovering a community’s history is no more about erasing the rich memories of another than the freeing of slaves is about enslaving the former slave-owners.  It entails the liberation of those in power from the lies of domination and nationalism as much as it does the empowering of those on the margins of memory. In this journey together, the biblical motif joins with indigenous theology as we are born out of darkness to gaze upon a brilliant vista of possibility and hope beyond our imaginations.


Joel.jpgJoel Morales Cruz earned his Ph.D. in World Christianity and Mission from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor. Dr. Cruz is the author of The Histories of the Latin American Church: A Handbook and the condensed Histories of the Latin American Church: A Brief Introduction (both Fortress Press, 2014), as well as The Mexican Reformation: Catholic Pluralism, Enlightenment Religion, and the Iglesia de Jesús Movement in Benito Juárez’s Mexico (1859-72) (Wipf & Stock, 2011). He has contributed an essay on the 16th century figure, Bartolomé de Las Casas for Global Perspectives on the Reformation (Eerdmans, Fall 2016) and a chapter on Mainline Protestantism in Latin America for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Latin American Christianity. Dr. Cruz lives with his two dogs in and two cats in Chicago where he is contemplating the subject of his next publication.

Embracing My Unique Identity – Sofia Garfias-Yi

Picture 002Sofia Garfias-Yi, our repeat feature, was asked by a friend to write the following reflection on her life for the Asian Pacific American Coalition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As you might guess by her name, Sofia is both Chinese and Mexican – and in this reflection she shares what this means to her as well as how she has dealt with racial stereo-typing.  So as we both begin the new school year, as well as begin reflecting a bit on the complexity of Latinx identity as part of Hispanic History Month, Sofia’s piece is an excellent way to begin. Read, comment, and share!


Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas
– Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


“Oh, you’re Mexican? Why don’t you just get back over the border? Or are you too busy mowing lawns?”

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Me.

It was an unexpected statement for two reasons. One, it was the first time any sort of racially offensive comment had been directed towards me. And two, the statement came from someone I’d considered a friend. Whereas I usually shot down any sassy jokes with a witty remark, I didn’t know what to say that day. My other friends were chuckling along, and eventually I gave in because… well, I didn’t want to seem up tight.

They were probably all thinking the same thing: it’s Sofia, she’s laid back, and she probably won’t care.

But over the next few years, these little instances would come up again and again. What people found absolutely fascinating was that not only was I Mexican, but I was also Chinese. Friends compassionately dubbed me as a ‘Chexican,’ which I thought was pretty clever. But along with this playfulness came other small remarks along the lines of, ‘Of course you’re good at that, you’re Asian!’ to fulfill any Asian stereotypes people had. And every single time, it never crossed my mind to say anything.

The fact was that I felt like I was in some sort of gray area with embracing my identity. As someone with a bi-racial identity, I didn’t really feel like I fit into any specific group. I never fully adopted into some of the American customs and traditions, so I was out of the loop on some aspects of the culture. When I was surrounded by Asian people, I never felt fully a part of them, though we shared a lot of similarities. And quite frankly, I never had too many friends from a Latino background. I was stuck in some sort of identity limbo.

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My family (from left to right): my dad, Hector Garfias-Toledo; my dad’s dad, Nelson Garfias; my dad’s mom, Guadalupe Toledo (front) and me; Snow Huang, my mom’s mom, and my mom Jade Yi.

Though I still struggle with this, I would say that coming to University of Illinois has opened my eyes and helped me embrace myself. Experiences from meeting people in similar situations as mine to taking classes like Gender & Women Studies has made me realize that our identities are unique and should be taken seriously. Offensive and demeaning comments don’t always come from a faceless Facebook user or someone on the street. They can also come from people you consider your friends or acquaintances. It can simply be because they haven’t taken the time to learn what your identity really means, and other times they may simply think they can get away with it because they’re your friend.

However, as I learned, brushing it off and laughing along with my friends didn’t solve anything. I was afraid of seeming uptight or killing the mood, but the very real fact is that the stereotyping and generalization of people of any culture is destructive. Sometimes what it takes isn’t some sort of witty remark or equally offensive comment, but a simple statement that the people of a culture are so much more than their stereotypes. They are each equally unique and have so much to offer to this world.

So go ahead. Next time someone makes a comment, don’t start a fight or brush it off. Start a conversation. You’d be surprised.


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My friend Tina, who inspired me to share my story.

My name is Sofia Garfias-Yi, and I am currently a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign studying Sociology and Communication. Though I was born in Austin, Texas, I spent most of my childhood in three different places: Taiwan, Mexico, and the Chicago suburbs. It was only by fourth grade that I settled down in the suburbs, where I currently live now with my parents. As a double PK (pastor’s kid), I’ve had a lot of interesting and wonderful experiences in many different churches, and this has certainly shaped who I’ve become today. My passions include exploring the city of Chicago, making art, and discovering new music.

Almost Latina – Elyssa Salinas, M.Div.

Linda Thomas at CTS eventI had the pleasure of having our next author, Elyssa Salinas, as a student last year. She never ceased to excite and inspire – for as much as her academic writing as her marvelous poetry. You get a taste of both of those things here, in this understated, vulnerably lyrical reflection on coming to understand herself as a latina. Read, comment, and share – and relish in this woman’s powerful story!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


I was twenty-three years old when I realized I was Mexican.

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Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954).

I always knew that my Dad was from Mexico and that I could attribute my curly hair and Frida Kahlo eyebrows to him. But I didn’t feel Mexican. Growing up I would snuggle into a multicolored blanket with white fringe, and I knew it smelled familiar, but far away. My mother would remind me that I was Mexican, especially when we would take those dreaded trips to visit the family. My dad’s side of the family was either still in Mexico or in various parts of Chicago. When we would walk into the homes of my aunts and uncles, it seemed as though the walls expanded because there was no way that many people fit into such a small house.

The whole family would gather, and I never felt so alone. Spanish would fly through the air, and in the midst of a sentence one of my aunts would cackle, showing her gold-capped molar. My jean-clad bottom would make contact with the plastic-coated cushion of a stiff chair, while a thin flowery plate would be pushed in front of me. Piles of refried beans and some rosy colored rice were always accompanied by either a tamale or enchilada that seemed to come from a never-ending supply. Instead of silverware, tortillas were the way to eat, but I always seemed awkward with them, so I would grab for a fork from the plastic cup that sat in the middle of the table. The tablecloth was encased with another covering that was easy to clean, and in the heat my small forearms would stick to it because it was, of course, plastic.

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From the film “Real Women Have Curves,” starring America Ferrara.

My dad would be sitting across the table from me, and like someone worried about being poisoned, I would watch him eat first. Spicy foods were foreign to my white-washed tongue, and I was afraid everything was spicy: the food and my family. Questioning eyes studied me, so I ate when I wasn’t hungry for fear of being found out. Someone would realize I didn’t belong there and tell me to leave in a language I heard but never understood. To this day, people assume that I can understand some Spanish because my father is from Mexico. I lie and say, ‘a little’, when in reality there is almost nothing I can understand outside of my middle school vocabulary. Since no one ever talked to me about a ‘biblioteca’ or wondered where it was, I was out of luck.

 

After we ate, we would venture to the living room where Telemundo raved and the couches would stick to the back of my thighs because—you guessed it—plastic. Around the television was a shrine of McDonald’s toys standing erect, Barbies still in their boxes, and lots of lace doilies. I made a mental note never to bring a Barbie for one of my cousin’s birthdays because it would end up in the shrine. There was always a copy of Leonardo’s The Last Supper and at least one painting of a painfully white Jesus with blond hair. We would sit in silence until my dad would ask something to one of his brothers.

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I would look around the room like I was in some sort of museum, but I wasn’t sure if I should stare. My eyes would flicker back to the TV where some game show or telenovela would be playing, both containing scantily clad women and boisterous men getting emotional about…everything. I would try to catch my dad’s eye with a face that was begging to get out of there.

I never wanted to be Mexican and I tried for a long time to only use it when I had to. As I got older, my world widened and throughout high school and college there were Latina/o circles that I came into contact with. I would walk past silently, like a spy, unnoticed. Everyone was better at being Mexican and I thought if I tried, I would be a fraud.

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Latino identity is a major issue among US-born Latinos – click here to read more.

When I went to seminary I was closer to coming into contact with my Mexican-ness, but I was still resistant. Yet in one class where I was asked to talk about worship from the perspective of a Latina, all I could think to do was talk about my abuela. She was a devout Catholic, and we couldn’t share a word, but we shared a name.

images.jpgDiscussing my identity in seminary made me recall a memory of her. I remember meeting her when I was seven. It was a dewy and cold morning in my Dad’s hometown. A cow woke me up before it was light out. I walked out of the bedroom shivering and my abuela wrapped a sweater around me that went past my knees. We walked into the kitchen from the courtyard and she gestured for me to sit while she made breakfast. She was blind in one eye from undiagnosed diabetes and always wore her gray hair in one long braid down her back. The kitchen was a safe place for us. There was no talking, but her hands spoke to me. She showed me how to make tortillas, how to roll them, and presented me with a mini press for my tiny tortillas. At dinner they sat beside hers on the table. Memories like this caused me to dive deeper into my Mexican identity with the help of other Latinas/os and a professor who handed me Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa, the most important book of this journey.

Since then I have been searching for what that Mexican-ness means to me. I’ve let my hair flow where it wants instead of straightening it into submission, my relationship with Frida Kahlo has graduated way beyond eyebrows, and I own a few books in Spanish that I’ve vowed to read.

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I feel almost Latina. Almost part of that world, but never quite there. I don’t know if it is the language or being raised in a home that was both white and Mexican.

I’ve asked my father why he came to this country and why he didn’t teach me Spanish. He came here to make a better life for his children (or child in this case), and that he was constantly annoyed explaining what he was saying to my maternal grandmother. He also confided that he was worried that Spanish would inhibit my opportunities. Sometimes I wonder what conversations would be like if my Dad and I had a common first language and there wasn’t always a translation barrier. This wall has kept us apart, but since seminary, cooking has become our language. He is a chef who teaches me recipes he cooked in his childhood kitchen, and it has brought us closer together.

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The bread of life.

I feel almost Latina. Every day like I’m almost there, like I’ve almost got it. Then I’m in a group of Latinas/os and I feel like I’m at the kitchen table in my aunt’s house waiting for someone to eat first.

I want to make sure it won’t be too spicy, but I promise I will try whatever is in front of me.

RESOURCES

Two undocumented valedictorians speak out at their graduation ceremonies.


ElE.jpgyssa Salinas believes that her theology must touch her body; therefore, her scholarship encompasses her experience as a Mexican American and as a woman. Utilizing her own body as a crux, her research embraces sex and body-positive theology in order to combat a culture of disgrace. She is currently the Program Assistant for Hunger Education at the ELCA and starting her first semester at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary this Fall. Elyssa continues to write for www.boldcafe.org and on her own blog http://coffeetalkwithe.blogspot.com/, and she performs poetry throughout the city of Chicago.

 

Embracing My Unique Identity: Sofia Garfias-Yi

Picture 002Sofia Garfias-Yi, our next feature, was asked by a friend to write the following reflection on her life for the Asian Pacific American Coalition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As you might guess by her name, Sofia is both Chinese and Mexican – and in this reflection she shares what this means to her as well as how she has dealt with racial stereo-typing.  So as we both begin the new school year, as well as begin reflecting a bit on the complexity of Latinx identity, Sofia’s piece is an excellent way to begin. Read, comment, and share!


Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas
– Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


“Oh, you’re Mexican? Why don’t you just get back over the border? Or are you too busy mowing lawns?”

11062676_199182920422135_1855919109313165322_n
Me.

It was an unexpected statement for two reasons. One, it was the first time any sort of racially offensive comment had been directed towards me. And two, the statement came from someone I’d considered a friend. Whereas I usually shot down any sassy jokes with a witty remark, I didn’t know what to say that day. My other friends were chuckling along, and eventually I gave in because… well, I didn’t want to seem up tight.

They were probably all thinking the same thing: it’s Sofia, she’s laid back, and she probably won’t care.

But over the next few years, these little instances would come up again and again. What people found absolutely fascinating was that not only was I Mexican, but I was also Chinese. Friends compassionately dubbed me as a ‘Chexican,’ which I thought was pretty clever. But along with this playfulness came other small remarks along the lines of, ‘Of course you’re good at that, you’re Asian!’ to fulfill any Asian stereotypes people had. And every single time, it never crossed my mind to say anything.

The fact was that I felt like I was in some sort of gray area with embracing my identity. As someone with a bi-racial identity, I didn’t really feel like I fit into any specific group. I never fully adopted into some of the American customs and traditions, so I was out of the loop on some aspects of the culture. When I was surrounded by Asian people, I never felt fully a part of them, though we shared a lot of similarities. And quite frankly, I never had too many friends from a Latino background. I was stuck in some sort of identity limbo.

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My family (from left to right): my dad, Hector Garfias-Toledo; my dad’s dad, Nelson Garfias; my dad’s mom, Guadalupe Toledo (front) and me; Snow Huang, my mom’s mom, and my mom Jade Yi.

Though I still struggle with this, I would say that coming to University of Illinois has opened my eyes and helped me embrace myself. Experiences from meeting people in similar situations as mine to taking classes like Gender & Women Studies has made me realize that our identities are unique and should be taken seriously. Offensive and demeaning comments don’t always come from a faceless Facebook user or someone on the street. They can also come from people you consider your friends or acquaintances. It can simply be because they haven’t taken the time to learn what your identity really means, and other times they may simply think they can get away with it because they’re your friend.

However, as I learned, brushing it off and laughing along with my friends didn’t solve anything. I was afraid of seeming uptight or killing the mood, but the very real fact is that the stereotyping and generalization of people of any culture is destructive. Sometimes what it takes isn’t some sort of witty remark or equally offensive comment, but a simple statement that the people of a culture are so much more than their stereotypes. They are each equally unique and have so much to offer to this world.

So go ahead. Next time someone makes a comment, don’t start a fight or brush it off. Start a conversation. You’d be surprised.


 

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My friend Tina, who inspired me to share my story.

My name is Sofia Garfias-Yi, and I am currently a student at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign studying Sociology and Communication. Though I was born in Austin, Texas, I spent most of my childhood in three different places: Taiwan, Mexico, and the Chicago suburbs. It was only by fourth grade that I settled down in the suburbs, where I currently live now with my parents. As a double PK (pastor’s kid), I’ve had a lot of interesting and wonderful experiences in many different churches, and this has certainly shaped who I’ve become today. My passions include exploring the city of Chicago, making art, and discovering new music.