I spent the K-12 years of my education surrounded by other Latinos. Diversity, as I understood it then, occurred when a non-Latino student attended our school. On occasions when a “White” student arrived, I clearly remember the challenges he or she faced in their new environment: different neighborhood, people, culture, language, and school. In many ways, it was like attending school in a different country. Being kids and/or teenagers at the time, I’m sure we didn’t make their transition any easier.
My college years in El Paso paralleled those that came before. The college and city was well over 70% Latino. Many students were Mexican Nationals who crossed the border from Cuidad Juarez daily. I was enclosed in a bi-national campus packed with other Latinos. Every cultural facet of being Latino could easily be found, but I was living in a bubble.
The bubble burst when I accepted my “first college job” and moved to Dallas. Everything changed. The fast-track management development program included only one or two other Latinos and a handful of African Americans. Gone was the familiar cultural safety net which provided support, acceptance, and confidence. The sureness that propelled me through college in less than 4 years evaporated. I suddenly felt like the new “white” students did so many years ago. I lasted only 18 months.
Karma is a bitch.
My story is not new. It’s experienced by Latino and non-Latino students every day. However, experiences like these are rarely captured and documented, especially not on film. I came across this article in The Atlantic today which focuses on the documentary, American Promise. The independent film captures the experiences of two African-American boys, Idris Brewster and his friend Seun Summers, who enter a prominent private school of mostly white students. Spanning over 13 years, the film captured the cultural and educational challenges of the two boys. More importantly, it examines how diversity has evolved to mean different things to different groups of people.
The author makes this point:
I’d argue, though, that parents of color aren’t compelled by “diversity” as much as they are by reality. Independent school administrators may be invested in preparing white students for an increasingly multicultural future (or multicultural present, since children of color now outnumber non-Hispanic white children). But parents of color like the families in American Promise are more concerned with ensuring their kids’ success in the still predominantly white spaces of the present. The job market is obviously strained for everyone, however, it continues to be remarkably stratified by race