40 million… billion…. no, trillion. To be honest I don’t think I know how many people there are in this world. But my point is that every one in this world has an opinion, including me. This should come as no surprise to anyone. But sometimes, for a variety of reasons, it does. Those who have formed an opinion of who I am, or who like to believe they know where I stand on my personal and social beliefs, at times will seem surprised especially. Conversations on controversial topics usually go one of two ways: either we agree, or we disagree. This is not a new concept to me. Where problems can arise is in the middle ground, that point where we agree to disagree.
And that point is not always an easy one to achieve.
I’ve had plenty of disagreements like this, where only by agreeing to disagree have both parties been able to move on. Last night, however, as I was having a very in depth discussion about a cultural issue that is very near and dear to my heart, I was met with constant opposition to everything I said. It was a tic for tac and I was stunned that this person did not seem to believe there was any issue at all. How did this person really not see this?, I began to wonder.
Before I continue, however, let me just elaborate a little about my own cultural upbringing.
I am 1 of 2 children, out of 5, who were born in the United States to Mexican parents. I have lived my entire life in Texas, and also in the same neighborhood that is predominately Mexican, with mostly first and second-generation families. Almost all those who reside here are either newly-arrived to the country, or first and second generation. Like many, I’ve come to make most of my friends right here in the neighborhood. The only time we had friends or directly knew someone from another culture or background was through school, usually teachers or staff; or when we left the neighborhood to attend another school or just to run errands.
There were one or two Anglo families residing in the neighborhood – there still are – but most of these families were either elderly or rarely ever interacted with anyone in the neighborhood. It seemed they never made their way outside. Still, we did almost everything within the boundaries of our own neighborhood. We went to school here, we shopped for our groceries here, we washed our clothes at the local laundromat, we used the same post office, and attended the same Catholic church here. Except for the times we would spend in Mexico, this neighborhood was pretty much where we spent most of our life.
On my mother’s summer vacations from work, however, off we would all go to San Luis Potosí, Mexico. There we would enjoy her days off with family and friends, who of course, we’re also Mexican. My exposure to American culture didn’t honestly start until I was well into middle school, about 11 or 12 years old. By high school, though, I was much more aware and integrated into both of my cultures and worlds.
I say all that to present the best mental and visual picture of how my own culture(s) might have impacted my personal upbringing. Yes, culture. I do believe that no matter where you identify yourself from, your culture does affect you. But, as someone explained it to me, we decide how much and where in our personal lives we let culture affect us. We decide wether we accept the good, the bad, and the ugly from our own cultures. It is a personal choice.
Back to last night. We were going back and forth about my opinion that sometimes, if not a lot of the times, in my Mexican culture, Mexican women are seen as less than Mexican men. I do understand this happens in other cultures as well, including my own American culture, but I see it much more present in my Mexican culture.
As I so badly tried to get my point across last night, I said something to the effect of (and please don’t quote me on this): “sometimes when I serve I wonder.. Is it because I want to do it or is it because that is what is expected of me?” And then I somehow got myself caught up in whirlwind of conversation that seemed to have no end in sight. About two hours into our discussion, I could longer help but to think: “No, I will not retract my thought or opinion about that which I feel strongly about. I will not.”
From then on, it seemed common ground would not be possible. Yet, somehow we did reach that point.
Similar conversations have ended with me calling my husband “a woman-bashing machista” and he calling me “an extreme man-hating feminist.”
So yes, I do have my own opinions as a Mexican American. I also have opinions as a woman. Sometimes I have them as Mexican woman.
But as I carefully analyzed my conversation from last night I realized I also made the mistake of assuming who my opponent was, based solely on the words that were being spoken. I realized I was doing to him what I believed was being done to me. It was a swift kick in the “you know what” moment, and I have to admit and accept this mistake, even though it is hard to swallow.
I’ve decided this will be what I do for Lent. I will give up making assumptions.