An Accumulation Of Everything We Have Experienced
Who we are is an accumulation of everything we have experienced. Our attitudes and beliefs have been shaped by our families, community, culture, and our place in the scheme of these things. The way we react to others and certain situations, our political opinions, our choice of foods, our clothes, how we wear our hair, and the way we communicate all represent who we are and what has shaped us. I am from a place where generations clash not only without but from within; me. There is an innocence that is lost when we challenge what is established and choose to explore the road less traveled. It is not a lack of faith in the traditional ways; on the contrary, faith in ourselves and our potential propels us. In the song "Infinita Tristesa," by Manu Chao, I hear a mother tell her son, "Siempre estarè a tu lado (I will always be by your side)." I think of my family and how even in their absence, they are present.
THE APPROACH I TAKE
Critical thinking is birthed by knowledge and provides us the means to dispute the blind acceptance in the way things have always been done. What is learned cannot be unlearned. To forcefully confine someone to something because that has been the way it has always been done is not good enough. There is a place we often refuse to look within ourselves because it is easier to deny than confront that which is uncomfortable. My community and the larger society struggle to maintain a hold on the past beliefs, not understanding those beliefs no longer apply to the social conditions of our present.
When we are forced to conform in a way that is detrimental to the spirit, the social environment becomes destructive. A contradiction exists in that disparity that is quietly understood and accepted but not recognized and therefore is denied legitimacy. For some, walking away from the way it has always been would be easy, but what will happen when I say no? How can I reject what I have known all my life? What kind of conflict will my noncompliance create?
So why choose to challenge the norm? I can only think of one word to respond to that: identity. I do not want my worth or value constantly attached to assumptions based on my gender or ethnicity. I do not want my worth or value attached to what people think or expect me to be. I want my own identity. I no longer want to feel like my choices are wrong because they do not coincide with my community's or the larger dominant culture's expectations. Walking away from what is safe has been one of the hardest things I have had to do, but it is also empowering. And it is this that I want to share with others. We are not bound by our shape, size, or the color of our skin; we are only bound by the limitations of our own minds. If we believe we can, there is nothing that can stop us from achieving our highest potential.