Emma Hurtado

Professor Ramos


20 May 2019

Finding A Place To Belong

American Identity is something that is almost impossible to define in one word or sentence. Most people would refer to the United States of America as a “melting pot”, which means everyone would have to assimilate to certain standards and culture. However, it should be seen as a mosaic. Our country and how we identify is comprised of all kinds of cultures and differences, and it is important to acknowledge and appreciate those differences. However, because of these cultural differences, not everyone gets the opportunity at a simple life here in the United States. In the study,  “The Roles of Racial Discrimination, Cultural Mistrust, and Gender in Latina/o Youth’s School Attitudes and Academic Achievement”, Adina Cooper and Bernadette Sanchez address the racial discrimination problems that are prevalent today. These problems are most common amongst Latino/a students and affect a vast majority of male minorities. Their study addresses the kinds of problems that Latino/a students endure during their educations. These obstacles vary by age, race, and gender. Not only do Latino/a students endure racial issues at school, but they also experience different kinds of hardships in their upbringings at home depending on whether or not they are male or female which is depicted it Junot Diaz’s “Drown” and Sandra Cisnero’s “Woman Hollering Creek”.

“Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros depicts what life is like for most Latina women and girls. Despite the fact that the story mostly revolves around Cleofilas, we catch a glimpse of the men in her life and the how their upbringing is toxic to not only themselves, but to the women in their lives. Cisneros addresses the difference in gender roles in a Latino community and how women were expected to be obedient and seen as overdramatic and emotion while men were expected to develop a thin skin and repress their emotions. This kind of behavior is detrimental to men’s mental health and usually harmful to women as well. One example of the way that men were raised differently was when Cleofilas was with her husband and his friends and they were drinking and making violent jokes. The men wanted “to tell each other what they want to tell themselves” and it showed how they were incapable of expressing any kind of emotion due to the fact that they were raised to hide all of that (Cisneros). It shows a lack of communication in the Latino/Chicano community and some of the unhealthy coping mechanisms that are taught to men from a young age. This lack of communication is something that can be seen in other similar stories involving Chicano and Latino youth/communities, such as Junot Diaz’s “Drown”. The outcome of raising children without teaching them how to communicate can have an effect on the way they value their education and friends, as well as the way they view themselves.

“Drown” by Junot Diaz tells the story of Yunior, a Chicano male who seems to be struggling with his identity and transitioning into adulthood. This story is another example of how boys were raised differently and how male minorities were seen and treated differently than others. As a young boy, Yunior and his friends would get into trouble, especially when they would shoplift from other stores. Yunior’s biggest fear was him and his friend getting caught because of the fact that their parents, especially their fathers would get upset. But this was different for his friend Beto because his father had arthritis and Beto knew he wouldn’t have to experience any kind of violence, whereas Yunior did. Because of this, Yunior expected all men to be violent rather than communicating. Aside from this, in high school Yunior and his classmates were told by a teacher that “the majority of you are just going to burn out.” (Diaz). Because of this negative motivation from their teacher, the narrator described himself as “going nowhere… I could already see myself losing altitude, fading, the earth spread out beneath me, hard and bright.” (Diaz). At this point in the story, people can see how easily he was discouraged which is understandable given the fact that an educator would dishearten them. We only get this small glimpse of Yunior in school, so we don’t get a chance to see if there were any similar incidents in the past, but it can be inferred that the idea of a higher education is a sensitive topic to Yunior. In the study that I read, it was mentioned that “reports of greater perceived racial discrimination among males may have a negative influence on the way they perceive and/or value education” (Cooper and Sanchez). After being done with high school, the only kind of education that is brought up is when the narrator’s mother brings up his old friend Beto’s academic accomplishments, to which Yunior immediately shuts down. It seems that because of the lack of communication and the negative attitude towards education after his own experiences in school.

Cooper and Sanchez’s study mentions that “because ethnic minority male youth are more likely to experience racism and/or respond to racism differently than female students, they may be more likely to mistrust members of other racial groups and ethnic groups” (Cooper & Sanchez). After the moment his teacher told his class that most of them would not succeed, Yunior’s perspective and attitudes towards men of other racial groups immediately changed. When he was approached by an army recruiter, he views the man as a joke, “He’s a southerner, red-haired, his drawl so out of place that the people around here laugh just hearing him” (Diaz). When he brings up that other people laugh at him, it shows how the vast majority of people in his community hold the same kind of attitude which seems to be an outcome of the discrimination they experienced in education or by anyone else who was of a different racial group.

Having to define American Identity is difficult because each individual is unique in their own way, especially because of their cultural differences and the obstacles that they experience growing up. Although academic discrimination is a problem that is prevalent amongst all races, it can seen mostly among Latino/a students. Latino/a youth not only have to struggle with their identity, but they also have to fight against the discrimination they face in school. Just like Yunior in Junot Diaz’s “Drown”, most Latino/as are kind of stuck in limbo between adolescence to adulthood and trying to figure out where they belong.
Cooper, Adina C., and Bernadette Sánchez. “The Roles of Racial Discrimination, Cultural Mistrust, and Gender in Latina/o Youth’s School Attitudes and Academic Achievement.” Journal of Research on Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), vol. 26, no. 4, Dec. 2016, pp. 1036–1047. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1111/jora.12263.