Topic: Please submit a 'visual poem', in a style of your choosing, on the theme of overcoming a personal challenge.
1800wheelchair is very proud to announce the winner of our Fall '15/Winter '16 scholarship contest. With well over 300 entries, this one stood apart for its interesting visuals and compelling story.
The inspiration behind the poem came to me after thinking about my life and how I identify with my culture. Being Mexican-American, I grew up in an assimilated environment, growing closer to my “American” roots more-so than my “Mexican” ones. I was taught Spanish at a very young age, so I grew up speaking two languages, which was (and still is) very useful. I guess one could say that I was a pretty happy child growing up, because I did not understand what racism or prejudices were.
Of course it was not until I grew older that I understood those terms. When I was in school I would hear jokes being thrown around about “border-hopping Mexicans,” “illegal aliens,” and “beaners,” and even though I would laugh at them at first, I began to realize how, even though they were not being directed at me, there was still a pinch of sadness/anger that would rise within me because that was my culture, that was where I came from. I think it hurt more when it came from the mouths of the people that did not know that I was Mexican. Probably because they felt that they had the right to say it since there was no “Mexican” in the room. But it was not the jokes alone that made me have this huge revelation about how people perceived my culture, but by the way people talked about immigration laws, and immigrants altogether. People had this stigma that all immigrants “hopped” the border to steal all the jobs and use up all the welfare. That angered me to the core. I was baffled at the idea that a good majority of the people really felt that way, about my family, because my parents immigrated here illegally, my parents were Mexicans, I was Mexican.
I wish I could say that those reasons motivated me to join some sort of activist group fighting for the fair treatment of immigrants, but it did not. It did, however, motivate me to defy as many stereotypes as possible. I wanted to show people that not everyone from my culture fit the mold that they were creating for my people. I did not have to be a pregnant teen. I did not have to be a high school dropout. I did not have to be a statistic. I was in fact, everything contrary. My whole family was. We all took those stereotypes into account and nipped them at the root. I am proud to say that I am Mexican-American. I love my culture and where my family originates from, because that is who I am.
Society says I’m an anchor baby
That I don’t belong because I’m not a purebred patriot
As though my culture was not enough to appropriate
Will they ever change their mind?
Society says that my ethnicity is the face of crime
That we are not welcome for the problems that we create
As though all of us are to blame, apparently that’s up for debate
Will they ever realize that it’s not only us who do time?
Yes, I have more than twenty cousins
And, yes, I have worried about immigration laws
But, no, I am not pregnant at eighteen
Or a high school dropout, or married
But, I am educated
I am a high school graduate
I am attending an accredited university
We are not here to “steal your jobs” or your welfare
We are here to survive
Because we are not “dirty Mexicans” or “wetbacks”
We are hard workers, we are doctors, we are engineers
We are humans too