New Players, Same Game

I am Dominican: with that, you try to determine my economic class and my cultural preferences. Every time I reveal my ethnicity, I see peoples’ countenances turn a bit sour by the stereotypes they associate with my background. People make assumptions out of whatever they know, and almost everyone at this school think that only Dominicans live in Lawrence, only Dominicans work at Commons, and all Dominican students at this school are on full scholarship, hailing from a family that is very poor. This is unfair. Hispanics are now the largest minority in the United States: there are 37 million in this country, edging out blacks by nearly one million residents. The Census shows that the Hispanic population has increased by 4.7 percent from April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2001, while all other ethnic groups have increased their population by, at most, 1.5 percent. This rapid growth in population will continues, due to the high Hispanic birth rate and the influx of Hispanic immigration to the US in the last decade. Now, do I really care? Is it supposed to be some honor that Hispanics are now the largest minority group? As of yet, I have not gotten my certificate for being Hispanic. During my education here in America, I have learned everything in relation to black and white, and I always questioned where the brown belonged. This explosive growth of population is considered to be the turning point in the nation’s history, a symbolic benchmark of some significance. However, the problem with this whole discovery lies in that it proves our country is still finding new ways to categorize people and talk about their differences. African-Americans are having conferences with scholars to discuss their identity crisis, because the term “minority,” one which used to connote black-white race relations in America, may become associated with Hispanics. African-Americans claim that they are the major American minority because their race that had to go through the trauma of slavery and the legacy of disfranchisement. Soon, discourse between leaders of these two groups may begin to resemble a battle between minorities for the top spot. It is quite ridiculous that minorities who lament on categorization and segregation now fight to be categorized as the “largest minority group.” African-Americans and Hispanics are in a group together: we are both American minorities. Instead of pinpointing our difference in numbers, we should accept the similarities that exist. Hispanic and African-American communities share many of the same pressing issues and problems at hand. Why have a civil war against each other when we are on the same side? Stereotypes are one of the biggest issues today. In the Phillips Academy bubble, we are taught to forget about differences, and instead look for what we have in common with our peers, a method which lessens the proclivity to make stereotypes the focal point of our judgment. But elsewhere, when I tell a person I am Dominican, I can just visualize the different categories I am being thrown into within their minds. I can safely say that there have been weeks here when I have never felt discriminated against; discrimination is not the issue. But to categorize and assume that I belong to a particular economic class, or that I play baseball because I am Dominican, is wrong. I do not strike people as Dominican, and sometimes not as Hispanic at all. When I reveal my ethnicity, however, I sometimes feel ashamed because of the “low-class” considerations which accompany my status. While the Census Bureau so loudly announces that Hispanics are now the country’s largest minority, this is an opportune time to examine the prejudices that all minorities, not just Hispanics, face.