Upon eclipsing the mid-month point, we transition into the odd ceremonial recognition of “Hispanic” identity. I feel conflicted that this event systematically pushes a Spain-centered narrative, even though Latin America uses the month of September to celebrate the anniversary of decolonization from Spanish rule.
Deliberate renaming is what renders people invisible, implying that there is no connection to place and identity without a colonial tethering. I still wonder how these layers impact those of us who can’t pass ourselves off as part of the dominant society, as we see our indigenous Mesoamerican ancestry inscribed in our facial features and our many variants of brown skin tones.
In this society, it is our brown hue that ironically renders us simultaneously visible and invisible in the popular imagination.
As a Master Social Worker in training, I wonder how the current state of the U.S. impacts the psychological health of the communities I will work with. The sting of racism is always challenging to work through. This is even more pronounced when racist rhetoric, institutional violence and intimidation are not only codified as policy but also actively encouraged via tweets and rallies, which in turn feed extralegal terror.
Institutional cruelty reigns in ICE Detention Centers and Central American Concentration Camps along the southern border. It is no surprise that the racism modeled by the executive branch influences domestic terrorism against the Latinx community.
The use of rhetorical dehumanization serves in legitimizing further violence, as evidenced by the massacre in El Paso, Texas, on Aug. 3. A manifesto uncovered after the shooting showed that the killing was to spur a violent salvo against the “Mexican invasion” of Texas.
Anti-immigrant rhetoric has long had a focus not on migration, but othered and racialized populations. It is with this understanding that we see the acts of violence hurt migrants and U.S. citizen Latinx community members alike.
Indeed, the current climate is atrocious for mental health. It’s clear that the Latinx community is in dire straits, along with all people of color who have been pushed into crisis. An Aug. 6 NPR article offers a glimpse in identifying higher rates of depression among “Hispanic” youth when compared with peers. Vulnerability to family separation increases anxiety, sleeplessness, depression and other psychological and physiological maladies among adolescents. This extends to U.S. citizens, as racism is also linked to increased chronic stress.
In acknowledging people and culture this “Hispanic” Heritage Month, we must ensure that those who struggle most are not rendered invisible. Solidarity and organizing is needed to address the multitude of concerns at interpersonal, communal and institutional levels.
We have a lot of work ahead of us.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and is a Master of Social Work student at the University of Washington. He has previously contributed to HistoryLink.org and the Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project.
Read the full September 25 - October 1 issue.
© 2019 Real Change. All rights reserved.| Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change and donate now to support independent, award-winning journalism.