By Yezenia Olivera
Behind every man there is a struggle, right? Shouldn’t the concept of the American Dream portray the individuality and the struggles that fall behind success?
So why is it that in today’s society, the concept of enhancing the American Dream and the expansion of diversity seem to be discussed so little? There are days that students have to explain the reasoning behind who they are. They have to describe the way they think, the way they act and the way they talk because of their ethnicity. Why do we have to state we are a race-hyphen-American? What wrong are we doing?
As a Latina, the struggles can be tough. If I don’t speak “proper English” it’s because I struggle with the concept of being bilingual. Because of the color of my skin, it is implied that I will have an accent, I am undocumented or that I have not attained a high level of education.
And yet I do speak fluent English, I have an American accent, I am an American citizen, I attend the University of Nevada, Reno, and I am on-track to obtain my degree.
This is the problem: the fact that we, as minorities, have to continue to explain ourselves when clearly we are just as worthy as the average Joe. We come to the university to get a better education and to better ourselves, yet we still seem to get pushed down. What do we have to do to prove ourselves?
Recently, the Reno Gazette-Journal, released information about a local high school, Procter R. Hug High School, which not only has the most minority students, but also the lowest income students in the Reno area. This newspaper claimed that these high school students did not put in effort to graduate but were handed their graduation, basically stating that each student from this high school were passed just to be passed. The RGJ’s editorial board states, “Hug’s graduation rate soared from 47 percent in 2011 to 73 percent for the class that graduated in May — and yet only 1 percent (yes, 1 percent) of students this year scored high enough on the ACTs to be considered college-ready.” The board continued to state, “Another possible conclusion — this one more sinister — is that schools are graduating students that they should not be in an effort to artificially inflate graduation rates.” Could this insult be because the students at Hug High are of mixed cultures or a minority-based population? Mrs. Janet Roberts, a social studies teacher at Hug High, sent an upsetting response in which she asked students and friends to respond to the Gazette-Journal’s claims. She wrote, “The Reno Gazette-Journal said that I and my fellow staff members are liars and cheaters. In their opinion article, they singled out Hug’s graduation rate and stated unnecessary ideas like that we cheated the system and my students are not worthy of a 73 percent grad rate. It could be the RGJ editorial board is unaware of the qualifications the class of 2015 had to meet in order to graduate or it could be we were lambasted because of other biases.”
As a student who attended Hug High as well as graduated with an honors diploma, this is not only insulting but disgraceful to my peers and myself. I believe that each one of us worked to get where we are. Each of us standing tall at the University of Nevada or any other college should not be shamed by a local newspaper. Whether we are light-skinned or dark-skinned, we can be involved in more than one culture, and there is nothing wrong with that. We grow up learning more than one language and more than one culture, yet we are told to live by a “standard” culture and a “standard” language.
As students we cannot encourage this behavior, because all of our struggles are meant to be strengths. We cannot tell someone they are less than others or that they are better than others. As students we need to encourage ourselves to live lives inspired by all of our cultures, because if we don’t, these stereotypes and judgments will continue. We will continue to be pushed down. If we, as minorities, do not assert ourselves as equals, we will continue to be seen as inadequate. We cannot have that. As a Latina who has experienced her fair share of discrimination, I will not let this continue. I am worth just as much as anyone else.
Yezenia Olivera studies marketing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.