Throughout modern-day society, it can be acknowledged that class, race, and sexuality have ultimately become markers for people and have created social possibilities depending on these differentiations. Within the social spectrum that values our place in society, lies classism, which in the United States can be seen as the oppression of the “faceless and undeserving” who are financially incapacitated to fight off the interests of primarily those in the top 1% and the exploitations set upon them by massive economic disparities set by American capitalism.
As the wealthy control not only the businesses, but also the majority of institutions, it cannot be denied that classism in the United States is a consequence of an economic system built to function on almost exclusively, the exploitation of laborers for the means of production, therefore resulting in the wealthy controlling the government as well.
Despite capitalism being seen as a breeder of “democracy and prosperity” by those at the top, racism and classism can be seen as intertwined as it is evidently shown through massive differentiations in wealth inequality, as in 2013, “Hispanics’ median wealth… was $13,700” as opposed to “the median wealth of non-Hispanic white households… as 1,900.
” Race can similarly be seen as an indicator of our social standing and worth, as racism in the United States has been predominantly seen as the exploitation of people of color by Anglos in areas of prejudice and discrimination in almost all societal areas throughout history, from more generally, slavery and discrimination in Southern states to more specifically, “linguistic terrorism” along the borderlands.
With the emergence of blatant racism in the United States, the context in which people of color have been placed in, has ultimately resulted in a metaphorical being of double-consciousness, in which those born of color have had to possess the ability to see themselves as who they are, and how they are seen as – the Other. Along with the social powers of classism and racism, sexism can be seen as the patriarchy’s oppression towards women, where debates are held over women’s roles in society, also in which “the female is [considered] a female by virtue of a certain lack of qualities” and is an “imperfect man”, woman is not defined as a being who stands on her own, she plays the supporting role to men – “she is the Other.”
Despite women being more commonly known as the Other, it can also be recognized that “otherizing” extends to the poor and the racially oppressed, who lack absoluteness in themselves, as they are only beings that help support and create their counterparts. As the social factors of class, race, and gender intertwine, social relationships are created and placements through societal values are determined through their Otherness, ultimately producing the ability of double-consciousness through all facets, as they all inhibit the capability to see past the Truth set upon them by those of the superior social standing, more commonly known as “rich, white men”. With this in mind as I reside in the borderlands at the tip of South Texas, I have often found myself contemplating over the deck of cards that I have been dealt in my life – a daughter of two Hispanic immigrants living in a 5-person household where the income is below $30,000, but just above the national poverty line.
Although being predetermined through the intertwining of these social relationships, such as my immigrant family and my white-passing complexion, along with living on the “other” side of the railroad and being a woman in modern-America, the social placement I have been given is a story of empowerment that surpasses the expectations and exploitations society has fixated on me. Growing up, I was oblivious to the interrelationships between class, race, and gender or sexuality, yet I found myself to be a victim of all three and the lines that are blurred within them. Due to the previous physical forms of racism and discrimination never being completely eradicated, Weslaco, the town I grew up in, was divided into the north and south side of the railroad tracks, essentially the Mexican and the White side of town with poor and rich connotations attached to them, respectively; my house was in a neighborhood in the north side that was always referred to as “the middle of nowhere and Mexico.”
My parents were two Hispanic immigrants who abandoned their comforts of “Las Flores” or Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, and consequently, my father, the former photographer, and my mother, the former nurse, found themselves to now be a freelance carpenter and a Whataburger cook in capitalist America, for the sole purpose of a better life for their future generations. As a white-passing child with parents of color, my place in society was one in which I felt ashamed of. When my parents sent me to school on the other side of town, I was initially placed in bilingual classroom due to my parent’s wishes. One week later, I was escorted from that classroom to one on the other side of the hallway for being bullied… I was not one of them; I had been relocated from the bilingual classroom to the advanced classroom… I was told I was too smart to be with the bilingual kids. Consequently, it did not take long for my ten-year-old self to adjust to my surroundings, I was now in the “Gifted and Talented” classroom where everyone who surrounded me, looked like myself, white-complected, and completely unlike my siblings and my parents… colored. Suddenly, I found myself hiding in the restroom of my elementary school to call my parents to pick me up… I was ashamed to speak in Spanish. I found myself hiding the stitches on my shirts that my mom placed on the tears with my one name-brand jacket, a hand-me-down…
I was ashamed of looking poor. I found myself lying to my friends as to why they couldn’t come over to my house… I was ashamed of my parent’s home. I found myself untangling my braids on the bus on the way to school… I was ashamed of looking too Mexican. In one way or another, it cannot be denied that even as a young and oblivious child, I became a victim to my insecurities predetermined by society. It was not until the 8th grade when one of my teachers attempted to motivate my peers and our studies by saying “Make sure you do well in your education, or else you’ll end up flipping burgers at Whataburger”, that I felt provoked and filled up with rage. Although I was too young to understand it when I was ten, at fourteen, I felt it my responsibility to defend the hands of my Hispanic mother… the same hands I was once ashamed of… but the same hands that brought food to my table, water in my shower, and light in my life. “Well, I’m not ashamed of you anymore, Momma. My heart, once bent and cracked, once Ashamed of your China ways. Ma, hear me now, tell me your story Again, and again.” It was at this point in my life where I consider myself to have had an epiphany, a revelation of sorts, where I assembled the most deeply afflicted parts of myself and created an understanding of where my anger and rage stemmed from – my societal value calculated by multiplying x and y, my race and class.
As I began building my own “coming of age” story that was deeply rooted in internalized racism, I reflected upon areas of my childhood and adolescence in which, I struggled to keep my identity a secret – “[my] voice penetrated every corner”, my culture spoke louder than the ways in which I tried to hide it – and for my own personal character development, I recognized myself to have obtained a form of second-sightedness, double consciousness, and the divisions that lied between myself, the Other and them, along with the internalized racism that is essentially widespread throughout the Rio Grande Valley. “Born with a veil and gifted with second-sight in this American world, –a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.
A representation using 500 students was used to find that internalized racism was negatively correlated with ethnic identity, while factors such as language proficiency in both English and Spanish and perceived racism were positively correlated to ethnic identity. As people of color are exploited and ostracized by the manifestation of racism, it can be assumed that people of color begin to collude with the same racism used to belittle them, through unconscious thought stemming from an imposed vulnerability. As the concept of the Veil and double consciousness applies to race, it can also be recognized that as Beauvoir’s concept of Otherness extends to race, and class, W.E.B. Du Bois’ notions of second-sightedness also extend to other forms of social factors and relationships where the people who pertain to the inferior groups, such as Hispanics in the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, find themselves to inhibit the ability to see themselves inside and outside of their predetermined True selves in order to gain some type of liberation, outside of their own internalized oppressions.