Overcoming racism made me stronger

Illustration by Darian Maroney

I’ve experienced racism many times throughout my life but not here in Chico — not until Cesar Chavez weekend.

I thought I would be used to it by now, hearing the offensive things people had to say about me based on how I looked.

But instead it just reminded me how much it actually hurts.

The incident occurred when I was out with some friends having a good time. We were walking back to our place but had forgotten our gate keys. So when we saw a group of guys leaving, I shouted for them to wait.

They didn’t hear me on time. So when we got there, the gate was locked again. One of the guys apologized.

But another said that I should’ve spoken in English because they couldn’t understand me.

I was shocked because I clearly yelled for them to wait in English, and I told him this.

All he had to say in return was, “Speak English. This is America.”

Ironically, he was wearing a sombrero while telling me this.

I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.

He was intoxicated. He didn’t mean it. It was Cesar Chavez weekend. He was being carried away by everything.

Or maybe it was my accent, and they really couldn’t understand me.

But as much as I try to make excuses for this man’s behavior, it doesn’t lessen the fact that his words hurt and were unnecessary.

I might be too sensitive. But when you’ve grown up your whole life hearing things like this or worse, it’s hard not to take offense.

It just brought back memories that I don’t want to relive.

It’s probably naive of me to think that maybe one day race won’t matter. But I wish it was possible because I know I’m not the first or the last person who will experience racism.

I don’t want anyone else to go through that. It’s hurtful and, believe it or not, could change people’s lives, either for better or for worse.

Luckily for me, it was for the better.

Hearing people degrade me or make fun of me for not speaking English well just made me strive to be successful.

Growing up, I had many people doubt me, and I wanted to prove them wrong.

I wanted to show them that even though it was hard for me to learn English, I did it.

I’m now attending college and writing for The Orion. I have the chance to make a difference. I can prove that race doesn’t have to affect whether someone can be successful or not.

If a person has the drive to succeed, then it’s possible.

I won’t let racism or other obstacles in my life stop me from being who I strive to be.

And neither should anyone else.

Daisy Dardon can be reached at [email protected] or @daisydardon on Twitter.