The Right to Live, Work and Dream in America

Everyone has the right to live, work and dream in America. But not everyone can easily act on that right. So what are we going to do about it? 

Racism and Injustice is Real. It Must Stop. Now.

Racism and injustice exists. Own it, and do something to end it!

The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and thousands of other people of color are just scratching the surface of what we all know has been happening in this country for generations, yet continued to ignore because it hasn’t personally touched us, the privileged. Institutional racism has killed many, many people of color since this country was founded. You and I have ignored this fact far too long. Racism and injustice must be stopped. Black lives matter!

I’ve been thinking: what can I do to make our country a better, more equal place for all people? It’s hard to relate to discrimination, because even as a Latina, I can’t pinpoint a time I have been directly discriminated against because of the color of my skin. I am privileged. It’s not right.

We are not born racist. We learn it from others.

I haven’t gotten a real taste of discrimination because I wear privilege on the outside: light skin. And it’s all because of the internalized racism instilled into my grandmother. When my mom met my dad in 1952, grandma instantly liked the fair-skinned ginger boy with the ambiguous last name. Until she got to know him, what she really liked was that he wasn’t dark. With grandma’s approval, mom and dad fell in love and lifted themselves out of poverty. To get along in the white-centric L.A. culture at the time, they jumped into America’s so-called melting pot. My five sisters and I would never learn to speak Spanish as children, because my parents feared we would be discriminated against if we had an accent. We rarely participated in anything more cultural than Christmas Tamales, and knew very little about our culture while growing up.

the right to live work and dream in America
Mom and Dad, circa 1972.

My parents moved into a white community because they thought it would provide a better life for me and my sisters. And in that mostly white education system with almost all white teachers, it did. While under their control, teachers’ attitudes and those of the adults around me taught me that to be anything but white was to be less than. So I played along to get along. I could do that. It’s so much easier when you’re not black.

For Mexicans like me, discrimination happens a lot more subtly than it does for black people, like being told “You don’t look Mexican!” as if it were a compliment. When I was young, I was too dumb to know that it wasn’t.

I know that I’ve been given far more opportunities because of where I lived and what I look like. I have taken it for granted. The recent events have slapped me around and reminded me that black people and millions of other non-white people are not given that choice in our so-called democracy. 

right to live work and dream in america
If you cannot name this landmark, you are privileged.

The events of the last couple of weeks remind me that I still have many things to learn about racism, injustice and discrimination. For example, I am not using this platform, or others I write for, in ways that can help end racism. That’s going to change. I owe it to black people and everyone of color to better understand their experiences and share them with others. 

So now I return to the question: what am I going to do about eradicating racism? Here’s a short list:

  1. Spotlight more black people in my paid writing work. 
  2. Include more civil rights topics in my writing and visit civil rights landmarks (like the Lorraine Motel where MLK was shot, pictured above).
  3. Bring attention to companies and organizations–especially those in the outdoors industry–that are not including people of color in their advertising campaigns, websites, etc.
  4. Call out racist language and attitudes when I experience it. 
  5. Speak out when I don’t see people of color represented in leadership roles, especially in the pets and travel industries that I write for. Insist on representation at the highest levels.
  6. Stop shying away from blogging about racist things we see in our travels.
  7. Find more podcasts about racism and injustice in America, like The Breakfast Club.
  8. Watch more movies and read more books about anti-racism.
  9. Support organizations like the Color of Change.
  10. Do everything I can to get responsible, effective and humane leadership into our government.
the right to live work and dream in america
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I became a writer because I wanted to bring out the stories of people who don’t have a voice in this world. I thought I’ve been doing a good job meeting that goal, but I can do more. I’m going to do better, and I hope that whatever change-making talents you possess, you will too.