I didn’t realize how much my ethnicity (being a Hispanic Female) would determine of my future. At a young age I thought that I could be anything I wanted to be, but as I grew older, I slowly realized that my ethnicity would try and determine some of that for me. I first realized this during my time in medical appointments with my sister.
My sister has Autism and Epilepsy. This made her first decade and a few more years of life much tougher than your regular kid. Going to at least 2 doctors appointments a month became part of our regular schedule. Since the young age of 10, I have accompanied my mom to all of my sister’s appointments. While going back and forth to appointments I started to notice a difference. Sometimes they would tell us everything, sometimes they wouldn’t, sometimes they would give a translator, other times, they would barely talk to us. We would notice that as soon as we “knew what we were talking about,” they would start explaining things to us. The bias due to our ethnicity was present, and a barrier that we had to sometimes over come simply for good healthcare, a human right. Our ethnicity was determining the healthcare we would receive.
I later realized my ethnicity started to try and determine my career. From a young age I knew I wanted to study to become a physician, but apparently that wasn’t what my ethnicity or gender did. It was the middle of the semester and I was struggling with my classes. I decided to go to my adviser and ask for advice, like any student. After telling her my struggle and sharing to her that I wanted to become a doctor she replied “Are you sure? That’s not what people like you do.” I grabbed my papers and left.
Just a few months back, in graduate school, I was headed to a meeting with a prestigious faculty member of the school I went too. I had black scrubs on, and a shiny yellow hospital badge that couldn’t be missed. Before entering the meeting about 3 people in front of me, non-Hispanic, signed in, grabbed pizza and went to their chair. Before I could sign in, the person at the table asked me “are you here for this meeting?” as she pointed to the poster of the meeting. I said yes, but she still continued to ask me other questions like what school I was in. Eventually she let me in. I was the only Hispanic in there, let alone Hispanic female. To the lady at the table, I didn’t belong there.
Some time ago, an old friend from high school sent me a message after finding me on Facebook. She asked me how I was and what I was doing. I was doing the usual, trying to be that doctor I have always studied to be. She replied, “Wow, and no kids yet?” I was 23 at the time, she was 22. Culturally, for us, it has always been the norm to have kids at a young age. The cycle according to my ethnicity goes, you graduate high school, find someone, have kids and get married and carry on. If you break the cycle, which can be hard, as this has cycle has become the norm, you're an anomaly. To my Hispanic friend, I was an anomaly.
This bias has happened and continues to happen to me in a lot of places. I have been told that people like me don’t become doctors or lawyers or professors or scientist, we stay at home, rely on the husband, have kids, and that’s all. I have been told that Hispanic females don’t go to school, and have been assumed to have no education because as my former adviser said, that is not what people like me do. At times the bias towards my ethnicity and race became so strong that I almost believed it. I thought, maybe they are right, maybe having a career isn’t for me, maybe having good healthcare isn’t for me, maybe living in a big city isn’t for me, maybe having a nice house isn’t for me, maybe being fit isn’t for me because according to the world things like these aren’t for people like me, a Hispanic female.
As time passed though, I realized that it wasn’t my ethnicity that was trying to determine my future, it was everyone else, and that the only way to change it was to focus on me by studying for that career, moving to that big city, saving for that nice house, going for a jog everyday. As I grew older I realized that at the end of the day these biases will never go away; but it is up to me to choose my future.
People will judge, whether you choose the right or the left door, so choose the one YOU like the most. And for that adviser, doctor, friend, colleague, even family member or stranger you meet next, remember, everyone is capable of anything. Don’t close a door on someone because you decided to judge them before giving them an opportunity.