by Juan Reyes
For people of color (POC) in America, being quiet has become routine.
I hear microaggressions on a daily basis, intentional and unintentional. If I point them out, people either think I'm an asshole or too sensitive. They will always argue that it wasn't their intention (it never is) and I shouldn't make them feel guilty. Somehow by the end of each interaction, I end up being the bad guy. All because I pointed out something that shouldn't be said and still they said it.
It leaves me feeling frustrated, not with others but with myself. Why can't people realize that speaking about this is as uncomfortable for me as they think it is for them?
I hear microaggressions everyday, but you rarely hear someone calling you out for using them.
Here's a list of the microaggressions I hear more than apologies everyday:
No, where are you REALLY from?
You don't act like most Latinos.
So, what are you?
Wait, how come you don't speak fluent Spanish?
You're white inside.
Can you say something in Spanish?
You don't look Mexican (that's because I'm not).
Yes, these are "inoffensive" things as a lot of people call them; sometimes even people like you. I bet you're thinking I should shrug them off because people don't mean this in a bad way. But the truth is that it doesn't matter if they do it intentionally or not.
POC deal with these things throughout their whole lives.
Calling people "too sensitive" for standing up for themselves is easier than accepting the things you say may be discriminatory. Think about this.
I'm not here to educate people on racism, though. I'm here to encourage POC in America to speak.
Speak when something makes you uncomfortable; it doesn't matter if the person did it unintentionally or not.
Speak when you hear someone using derogatory words, even when they don't target you.
Speak louder when someone attempts to make you feel guilty for calling them out. It's your voice and you can use it any way you want.
Speak when people spread false ideas about your community. You don't have to be a spokesperson for an entire race, but advocate for your own experiences and educate those around you.
Speak if you can, and you should. Not everyone feels empowered to do so.
You're strong, you have power, you belong here. So, if you take anything from this let it be this single, powerful word:
I know for me, it has made all the difference.