On Being an Other

Melissa Martinez“I don’t want to sound stupid or anything,” said my aunt as she made a remark about the weather being cold, but not as cold as in Massachusetts. I noticed how she quickly grazed her eyes in my direction before letting them drop when our eyes met.

Lately, I felt as though many of my close friends and family members were making statements such as these quite frequently. Level of intelligence had never been something that created a barrier between us before my first semester at college. I had just returned home, and after being away for a short 4 months, I already felt like a stranger in my own house.  Conversations would drop to whispers when I entered a room.

As I know many other students across the country can relate, having a dual identity is not easy. I am a Mexican American who is also a first generation college student. Although many people see having a dual identity as being something worth prizing, I find it rather difficult to transcend between these two cultural worlds—the American lifestyle and the cultural attributes of being a person of Latin roots. I often find myself being in a position where I fit in neither of the two categories, an other.

they no longer saw me as the innocent girl who got good grades in school

Common characteristics of being an other include, but are not limited to, having your colored skin separate you from the more traditional Americans, not fitting into your ethnic group due to your “privileged” position, and a feeling of loneliness or lack of community.

During my short return to my home over the winter break, my family members had subconsciously painted a label over me that read “Privileged”. As I interacted with them, they no longer saw me as the innocent girl who got good grades in school. I was now someone in a position of privilege who had lost all sense of humbleness in their eyes. It was almost as if I were a threat to their way of living and traditions due to my attendance to an elite institution.

That being said, my intention is not to encourage alienation among people who do not fall under this other category, but to advocate for an understanding from all sides of the cultural boundaries. We must make a conscious effort to join these two very different cultural spheres while retaining a feeling of belonging to these two groups.

Leave a Reply