Diversity Essay - Thoughts, Feedback?

(BLS, URM status, non-traditional, GLBT)

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Joined: Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:03 pm

Diversity Essay - Thoughts, Feedback?

Postby MexicanCountryBoy » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:11 pm

(goal school is Vanderbilt)

I am third-generation Mexican-American. However, I’ve often felt insecure about my identity because I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. As I touched upon in my personal statement, my father never learned how to speak Spanish as a child either. Shortly after my oldest uncles were starting school, administrators called my grandmother in for a meeting. They complained about my uncles’ proficiency with English and about what they perceived as a failure to culturally assimilate. They told her she was only to speak with her children in English, even in her own home. My grandmother reluctantly agreed and so my father never became bilingual. He was thus unable to pass this part of our culture onto me or my siblings.

It was embarrassing when I was younger, being a Latino who couldn’t speak the language. People often told me that I “wasn’t really Mexican” or that I was “whitewashed.” I’m fairer-skinned with light green eyes so not having what the American media depicts as a stereotypically Mexican appearance certainly didn’t help me convince those who were skeptical of my background. It seems foolish now, to be more upset with not seeming Mexican to strangers than upset I had missed out on an important part of my culture. I now speak Spanish at an intermediate level through school and self-study and hope to continue to improve my linguistic skills but it’s simply not the same as being raised in that environment.
I never resented my father or grandmother for this but it definitely left an impact on my self-perception. I often felt isolated from my own culture. I thought I was only getting small glimpses of the Mexican-American experience when we visited extended family or attended gatherings.

Since then, however, I’ve learned to embrace my upbringing as a part of my own unique perspective. I’ve heard similar stories from many 2nd and 3rd generation Mexican-Americans, about not learning Spanish due to parental fears about failing to assimilate or institutions trying to suppress Latino identity. Being on the margins of a “normal” Mexican-American identity has allowed me to have a deeper respect for my culture and the circumstances that has led to my family’s story. I learned to ignore the self-righteous people who thought they could gatekeep my identity and just be proud of who I was. In this, I feel like I can contribute a unique perspective to the discussion surrounding the areas of law that are most relevant to the experiences of the Latino-American community.

Furthermore, I would just like to say that attending law school would be a groundbreaking achievement in my family’s history. Although both of my parents enrolled for college at some point, neither were able to finish and get their degree due to familial obligations. My father had to financially support a child from his first marriage with a job that was already available to him. My mother became pregnant unexpectedly and had to drop out. My sisters and I are the first generation to receive four-year degrees and I, if accepted, will be the first person, even among my larger extended family, to ever attend law school. I feel a unique sense of pride when I hear my grandmother or cousins say how nice it will be to finally have a lawyer in the family (even if they say it in a language I didn’t grow up speaking).

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