The other day I went out with some friends from la UADY and other students from my study abroad program. We all waited for several minutes with a large group of people until the bouncers finally started to let people in. They slowly let in small groups of people, seemingly arbitrarily. As we waited I started to talk more with the other UADY students while many of the other Americans stayed together in a group. We waited, getting more and more impatient, until finally the other American students were let in but not the group I was standing with. After that I started paying more attention to the people who were being let in. Some of them clearly knew the bouncers, others were dressed up more than the rest of us, and the others who were let in were usually groups of attractive women. But what they all had in common? They were mostly white, and many seemed to be extranjeros (foreigners).
Soon it became clear that I wasn’t the only one who noticed this. One of the women, urged me to go stand at the front of the group and speak English. Within a few moments of doing so the majority of our group was let in. After a few moments, another woman told me that if I went back to the bouncer and spoke in broken Spanish I could probably get him to let in the rest of our group. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
Obviously, who gets let into a club first is a fairly small issue, but it’s emblematic of a bigger problem. Events like these remind me of the immense amount of unearned and undeserved privilege that I have as a white person and as an American. Especially when I compare my experience living in Mexico as an American with the experience of many Mexicans living in America right now. Not once have I been berated for speaking English with my friends. In fact, people’s reactions are usually extremely positive and friendly. People are curious about what part of the United States I’m from, they compliment me for being able to speak basic Spanish and ask if they can practice their English with me. I have been treated with nothing but respect and kindness. My classmates offer to help with my Spanish, my teachers check in with me to make sure I’m understanding everything in class, strangers on the street offer to help me when I look confused. I am so truly in awe of how warm and open everyone has been. This only makes it harder to see the way that Americans treat the people who come to our country. I honestly don’t have the words to express the sadness and shame that I feel over the recent and not so recent acts of discrimination and hate that run rampant in the United States.