By Esther Gonzalez
Something that I’ve realized is how active hierarchy is in my life. More specifically, I’ve realized how much my dad believes in race and gender hierarchy. My dad has been a large influence on my life. He’s very logical and intelligent, which are traits that I obviously strove for. But there are some things that he believes that have always troubled me. The only difference is now I can fully explain it.
My dad was born in Mexico, but he grew up in Los Angeles. He hasn’t said this in so many words, but after knowing him all my life, I can pretty firmly state that he is slightly (and probably unintentionally) racist against “our own” – Mexicans. Growing up, he associated Mexicans to chicano gangsters, who either were in jail or dropped out of school by high school. He remembers running and hiding from gangs. He wasn’t exactly the model student at the time, but after he grew up, joined the Air Force, and traveled a bit, he realized that he didn’t want to settle in Los Angeles. In fact, he didn’t even want to settle in Oxnard, which was “too close” to Los Angeles, because of the high Hispanic population (and subsequent gangs). This (and the better schools) is why I grew up in Ventura, which is a staunchly middle class suburb. This, in essence, is why most of my best friends are white. This is why every boy I’ve ever seriously been attracted to has been white.
More than this, my parents never taught me Spanish. Granted, neither of them speak it all the time, but both of them could get by in a Spanish speaking country. My dad told me later that this was an intentional move, as he wanted me to be fully concentrated in English, so that I wouldn’t be behind the learning curve. To some extent, it must have worked, since I’m currently at Wellesley. But now I know of children who have been successfully multi-lingual from an early age, and I am insanely jealous. Partly because this is a valuable skill, but also because I have absolutely no culture. I never had a quincenera, I’ve never celebrated Dia de los muertos. Spanish was my worst class my sophomore year of high school, which caused some of my friends to playfully tease me: “but you’re Mexican!” Maybe in the blood, but not in the soul. Despite being Mexican, my dad has tried to further himself from this, because he believes that the American (aka, white) way of life is superior.
Beyond this, my dad, despite respecting women, believes that there is a clear distinction between the genders, and that men are inherently the dominating group. The greatest example of this is when I was joking with my boyfriend at home, and told my dad that I “wore the pants” in the relationship. You would think that he would be happy about this, since he has often told me to be cautious of the animalistic nature of men, but no. Instead, he gave me a look, and said “you shouldn’t be”. Of course, this caused me to give him a look and think “what does that mean?” Of course, that means that in spite of the fact that he knows I am a fully capable woman, my dad still believes that my boyfriend should be “the man” in the relationship (but let’s be real here: I’m a Wellesley woman.) This lies parallel to this fact that he believes that women cannot be pastors. There have been a few times when I or my mom has asked him to hold our bag while we do something, and he shrinks away, because it’s not “masculine”. To me, this is ridiculous. When my little brother did this to me over the summer, I made sure to have a discussion with him about how that train of thought is completely unnecessary. In general, my dad is a very capable father and he nothing if not well meaning. I just hope that I can give my little brother a more balanced world view than the fully white/male dominant one that I grew up with.