Gabby Pardo is the Opinions Editor at The Statesman. She is a journalism major and creative writing minor.
On Nov. 4, 2019, The New York Times published two news articles about prejudice against Hispanics in the U.S. I was casually scrolling on Twitter and saw both articles tweeted minutes apart by The Times. One was about a Hispanic student who couldn’t get medicine for himself, while the other was a hate crime against a Hispanic U.S. citizen. My heart sank and I felt disgraced. I never understood why people can be so sinister about someone’s culture. According to a SurveyMonkey poll, 64% of adults say that racism in the U.S. is a major problem for them. The biggest motives behind hate crimes in our country stem from race and/or ethnicity.
Our country is divided on what seems like a never-ending list of problems. I’m not saying we can stop racism and prejudice in one day, but people across the U.S. need to be further educated on the facts behind racism and immigration policies, including employees of both public and private companies.
The first article my eyes pondered on earlier this week was about a 20-year-old Puerto Rican student at Purdue University, José A. Guzmán-Payano. He tried buying Mucinex at a CVS Pharmacy near his school when he was asked for identification by an employee. Once he presented his Puerto Rican driver’s license, the CVS employee asked for a visa and claimed he was not from the U.S.
I read the article and was fuming even more about how embarrassing it is to live in a country that cannot understand my culture. I’m half Puerto Rican. My grandmother came here from Puerto Rico, later having my mother and uncle in the U.S.
Guzmán-Payano came to the U.S. for school and better opportunities. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, meaning that Puerto Ricans are considered U.S. citizens. If the employee was educated on this, none of this would have happened.
The second news story that broke my heart further was a video story by ABC Eyewitness News but also published in The Times. A Hispanic man, Mahud Villalaz, had battery acid thrown at his face and was harassed outside of a Mexican restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was called “illegal” by the white male attacker and was told that “you came here to invade.”
The most horrifying part of this incident is that the mayor of Milwaukee, believes the crime was triggered by anti-immigrant statements made by President Donald Trump.
I’m not our President, and cannot change his opinions; however, he has stereotyped Hispanic women by calling Alicia Machado, “Ms. Housekeeping” because of her Hispanic background and “Miss Piggy” because of her weight. And we wonder why hate crimes like this happen.
The number of immigration laws and limits on people from other countries being welcomed here to escape violence — and overall have a better life — are a little excessive. There is no full certainty if Trump’s comments were the motive, but what happened in Wisconsin is classified as a hate crime.
Villalaz is originally from Peru and is a U.S. citizen. The fact he has to justify himself when getting harrassed is ridiculous. In addition, this incident now causes permanent burn damage to half of his face.
My father immigrated here from Ecuador with his family when he was seven years old. He is a U.S. citizen and works for a government agency. When I was growing up, my father always told me that my grandparents wanted to come here to have a better life, and so they did.
My father came to the country and grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Not knowing any English, he eventually learned it and now speaks it fluently. He graduated high school and earned a college degree. My family has not had any hate crimes directed towards us, but we should never have to justify who we are nor worry about this happening to us.
The solutions to the two issues reported this week are not enough to end this stereotype of how all Hispanics are considered “illegal.” The CVS store apologized for the situation and retrained their employees. The white man who threw the battery acid was arrested. I understand employers and schools have diversity courses and education, but we need to add even further education about assuming stereotypes and immigration. If employees and students were educated on topics like citizenship and stereotyping from a young age, many situations such as the two that happened earlier this week could have been avoided.
Being Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian as well as having a parent who immigrated here struck a strong chord with me when I read about these issues. I have written previously about being a Hispanic living in a predominantly white community, along with the stereotypical comments I have faced as a Hispanic woman in her 20’s.
18.1% of the U.S. population is Hispanic. This number is expected to grow, with the Census Bureau expecting the population to be a little over 28% by 2060.
I’m not saying Hispanics are the only ones going through hate crimes and immigration stereotypes. All cultures face it, but the only way we can possibly decrease the amount of hate crimes, racism and prejudice we have in this country is by gradually educating people more.
I am a proud U.S. citizen and Hispanic. Just because I have tan skin and curly hair does not automatically make me dangerous or a threat to this country. My culture is growing and prospering. Get used to it.