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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Diaries of a Mad Brown Student: Stupid, little Mexican


“Diary of A Mad Brown Student” is a series that shares student experiences highlighting the many reasons discrimination is still alive and well in the Tucson community, and why that makes us mad as hell.

I’ve lived Tucson my entire life, calling the desert my home for 21 years. I’ve seen a lot here. I’ve lived through a lot here. I’ve seen people fight for change. I love Tucson, as small and uneventful as it may seem at times. I love this land for the things it has taught me about life, about myself and others.

Based on my experience growing up in Tucson, here is one thing I can say about it—it’s extremely diverse, yet extremely divided.

In Tucson, people make an effort to emphasize what part of town they grew up or live in. The emphasis of either “North,” “South,” “East” or “West” before “Tucson” really means a lot to Tucsonans. Each direction has its own specific attributes and stereotypes that people associate the area with. People stick to their specific areas, and outsiders are not always well-received.

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I personally grew up in South Tucson, a part of the city where minorities represent the majority. This helped define who I am as a student and as a regular person.

Throughout my short life, I’ve experienced a few racial micro-agressions that have really stuck with me. These experiences, as small or quick as they were, have molded me, formed me into the person I am today.

I’ve experienced racism, not just in Tucson, but everywhere. Some of those experiences have been in Mexico, others in big U.S. cities like New York City or Washington D.C., others in rural towns off the side of the road in Ohio or Texas. The point is, in my 21 years of life, I’ve had few instances in which I’ve felt directly discriminated against or unsafe. I’m lucky that it’s only been a few. Many people know nothing other than racism and discrimination.

Still, those few instances have stuck with me throughout my life.

Recently, I went into an antique furniture store in Tucson on a Saturday afternoon. I had spent the entire day with my two sisters and niece, shopping around at local stores and splurging on breakfast at our favorite local restaurant. I was enjoying myself with my family. Weekends are meant to be enjoyed.

We went into the store. My 18-year-old sister and I looked around the furniture in the store as my young sister and niece naturally gravitated toward the toy area of the store. They grabbed a bag of used Barbie dolls that they wanted me to buy for them. I told them I would go next door, to another store, and buy them each a new doll if they would not cause a scene, which young kids often do. They obliged, left the bag near the antique furniture, and left the store with my older sister.

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I stayed back, looking at something on my phone. I held back just long enough to see the store manager going after my family, holding the bag of dolls that were displaced from their usual spot in the store. I’m guessing he wanted an apology from them for not putting the bag of dolls back where they were originally. They didn’t even notice that he was going up to them, and walked out of the store. I heard him utter to himself, “Stupid Mexicans,” loudly. I have no idea if he knew I was still near him in the store, or if he had noticed that the girls were with me. He turned around, saw me, and just stared as I said “Excuse me?” He didn’t apologize or try to lie about his comment. He just stared back, and then returned to the back of the store.

I found it odd that a person would inject the word “Mexican” into an insult. As if, somehow, adding the word “Mexican” would make the insult even better. I would have understood if he would have said, “Stupid, little girls, they moved my stuff around!” or, “Ugh, kids these days.” He was frustrated, that’s understandable.

But, “Stupid Mexicans?”

Why was there a need for him to emphasize that they, we, were so obviously Mexican? I’m pretty sure that’s some kind of ingrained racism that just chose to appear in a minuscule way. It’s small, don’t get me wrong. But it was definitely not a normal way of speaking. It was a racist comment to two young girls.

I’ve realized this is something a lot of us encounter, some of us on a daily basis. People experience tiny events and situations that further perpetuate racist hate. People repeat racist ideas, sometimes without realizing the implications of their words.

I wonder.

Maybe noticing these types of situations is something I was taught to ignore, or something I subconsciously chose to disregard. However, it’s definitely something I would like to document and explore.

Follow Julian Cardenas on Twitter.

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