Can I be American?
In the poem, “I’m 7 things,” we get a glimpse of Mexican Americans’ identities and the stereotypes that come with it. I identify myself in this poem and see some of the struggles I faced growing up. I asked myself the same question the poet opens with, “can I be American.” My parents are from Mexico, so that automatically labels me a Mexican; I live in Texas, so, at first sight, I am Mexican (if I lived in Florida, it would be Cuban or Puerto Rican). Our skin color is the first marker of how society sees and treats us. The stereotypes faced with these assumptions have changed some, during the era of this poem; they would assume that a Mexican could not speak English or at least no very well. Today this may not be the case, although the assumption of a lower inelegance is still there. In elementary, I was in ESL classes; just because I spoke Spanish, my parents had to fight to get me out of this program. My father told the school district, “put my kids in the same classes as the white kids; I do not want them to get behind because you want to teach them more Spanish.” If we sound educated or have manners, we are referred to as Hispanic making Mexican almost a derogatory term. In elementary, some of the Anglo classmates would say things like “Mexican” as an insult. I had mixed emotions, as I was proud to be of Mexican descent, but it was an insult. Then came the Mexican American label for those that speak English well but still have Mexican customs. The stereotype now comes from both Angelo and the dominant society but from Mexico born individuals. We assimilate some American music/ customs and maybe speak more English, so our Mexican born counterparts see us as a sellout. We are no longer like “regular Mexicans” and are still not seen as Americans by white society. “If I have pretty brown eyes and know how to move my thighs, I’m Latino,” adding a sexual appeal to the identity, bringing a romantic connotation to our people’s presumptions. In attempts to give us a new acceptance, labeled Latino no longer assumed Mexican, Puerto Rican, or any other ethnicity but still seen as different, not just American. As those children of Mexican (focused on my identity) immigrants grew up in the USA, we form a new identity Chicano, a blend of our Mexican roots and our birthright and upbringing in white America while fighting for our right to equal treatment. During the era of the poem, we can imagine the brown berates, marching for social justice. “If I’m hanging around the wrong ol’ town, I’m a spic.” This derogatory term encompasses all the dominant society’s negative perceptions and brings the illest will towards brown color. This attitude and view was the cause of some altercations growing up in a dominantly white school. I felt this poem growing up. Trying to be true to yourself and trying to fit in wearing so many identities and carrying each stereotype like baggage. To answer the question “can I be American,” as long as we labeled first as Mexican-American, Mexican, Chicano, or Latino, we will not be American. When we travel outside of the USA, for example, Europe, we no longer are seen as anything except American, so yes, I can be American, just not in my own country.