I Am an Unwanted Presence

By Febe Gabriela Martinez

I remember sitting in class, looking at my peers, and wishing for blond hair and blue eyes. As one of only three Latinos in my kindergarten class, it was easy to feel like an outsider. Even from a young age, the idea that white was pure, beautiful, and altogether better was ingrained into my head. As I matured into a young adult, I came to realize that color does not define a person or their abilities. 

I came to believe that I could do just about anything I set my mind to, despite the fact that I was a minority in so many ways: low-income, latina and female. I came to convince myself that the United States was a country where people like me could succeed. I knew I had more barriers and hurdles to cross than many of the people around me, but I also knew that I could do it if I worked hard and bounced back up every time I faced a setback.

Last night, I faced the largest setback I have come across so far. The results of yesterday’s election opened my eyes to a knowledge I’d been blissfully ignorant to: about half of Americans (or at least American voters) view people like me as a threat; I am an unwanted presence. 

I was born in Pasadena, Texas. I am as American as the white children who sat around me in that kindergarten class. I have already broken through barriers that many would consider impossible for a person of my standing. I am the first in my family to go to college, breaking the vicious cycle and opening the path for my younger siblings to do the same. I will not let ignorance and prejudice deter me from the path that I am on. Yesterday’s election defined the next four years for our nation, but it did not define the years that come after that. 

The future lies in the hands of people like myself: minority groups across the country are quickly becoming the majority, and we will not let ourselves be drowned out by the messages of hate that have been spread in recent days. I find it hard to remain optimistic in light of recent events, but I can only hope that more people chose to love, and to spread the message of love, than those choosing to hate and to spread hate.