This blog was first posted on Federico’s website which can be found here.
Do I praise God because I am fearfully and wonderfully made?
To put it shortly, maybe.
During this Lenten season I have been fasting from a meal a day, using that time to pray for the lost, the lonely, and the unwanted. Part of this group has been undocumented students in the United States. As I’ve been praying for them, an insecurity within my own life surfaced.
There have been a few recent news articles published on happenings in the lives of some undocumented students. Reading how some students are not letting their status keep them from reaching goals has been inspiring. At the end of each story, I get ready to update the scoreboard (1 more point for the minorities), and then my happy bubble pops when I read the first comment, and the second, and third, and then the twentieth. Comment after comment, about how this “Mexican” should go back to his own country; how if he really was a Christian he would not be breaking laws and turn himself in; how these “Mexicans” are taking advantage of us.
Seeing all these hurtful comments, mostly from Anglos, made me remember how just a couple years ago I was right there with them throwing stones with my words. The articles I read were all about undocumented students who were Hispanic. Only two of them were Mexican, the others from somewhere else in Central America. With most of the articles a picture of the student was attached to their story, all of them dark skinned.
Even though the articles stated their home countries, that didn’t stop commenters from referring to all of them as Mexicans.
After I couldn’t stand to read anymore comments, I began to think about myself. I’m not undocumented, my family has been in the United States since 1910. Prior to that, Mexico was their home. I have dark brown hair, brown eyes and brown skin. The question that popped into my head was this:
Do people (non-Hispanics) think I’m undocumented when I interact with them?
I look very similar to the people in these news articles, so why wouldn’t they? A lot of people already assume I’m fluent in Spanish because of my skin color, why not make the assumption of my status as a citizen? The true colors of my heart began to shine.
I published an apology letter a few months ago addressed to undocumented students for marginalizing them, yet here I am doing it again. It dawned on me that I support undocumented students and families with their fight, as long as EVERYONE understands that I, myself, am not one of them.
All these questions left me once again uncomfortable in my own dark skin. I’m ok with being bicultural, but why couldn’t I be light skinned?!?! I thought I was past this.
All of these thoughts left me ashamed of myself. I told God his creation was flawed, He made me wrong. One of my closet friends is undocumented, I call him brother, but I’m afraid of outsiders thinking I’m in the same boat as him. Yet again, I thought the only way to get by in this country is to be Anglo-American.
It also led me to question the reasoning behind my fast and prayers this Lenten season. Am I doing it hoping it would erase the wrongs I committed towards this group of people? And why am I keeping a scoreboard?
After a lot of processing, I know my heart was in the right place when figuring out how I would invest my prayer life in these forty days. However, I’m still in prayer asking the Lord to help me once again to see the beauty in being dark skinned.
I’ll close by asking again for forgiveness from those that are undocumented. I am sorry for making your struggles about me. I am sorry for marginalizing you. I am sorry if you believe the only way to succeed or feel loved by people is if you are light skinned. Mostly I am sorry for saying I will stand with you, but never crossing the fence to be with you.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Federico is a student leader in a Latino/Hispanic campus ministry, Destino. He is currently investing time in discovery his ethnic identity and serving the Latino/Hispanic community in South Texas.
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