I was a young teenager when it first happened.
My little brother and I were outside the bus stop on the way to school. We were laughing and talking about kid stuff. All of a sudden, a group of older teen boys rolled up on their bikes. They circled us, made fun of how we looked and our accents, then they yelled at us to go back to a country they assumed we were from. My little brother was paralyzed with fear and he started crying. All I knew to do as an older sister was to put my arms around him and get us out of there.
Their words have always haunted me, and after reading President Donald Trump’s tweets about Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, I was taken back to that day.
I remember making the decision to start waking up an hour early to walk the long way around that bus stop out of fear of running into the bullies. I slowly watched myself become more and more ashamed of my family’s food, my heritage. Even the sound of my own voice brought me deep shame.
I’m originally from Mexico. My accent felt like a threat to me and my family. For years, I chose to not speak unless I absolutely had to. I had convinced myself that by making myself silent and smaller, that no one would notice me and my family.
Those boys and their racist “go back where you came from” chants stole my voice. [Continue reading…]