“You will never amount to anything” echoed in my head shortly after learning I had earned early tenure. “You will never amount to anything” is exactly what my middle school principal told me when I was in 6th grade. His words struck fear and self-doubt into my soul. His words sounded definitive; factual; predictive of the future.
I immigrated with my family from Mexico when I was 4 years old. We lived in poverty but in a home rich with love and hopes for the future. When “Mi Vida Loca” came out, I for the first time, saw myself reflected on the big screen. The characters were Latinx. They spoke Spanish, and they weren’t “the help.” Hollywood had glorified gang culture, and impressionable little Latinx children who were eager to see themselves on TV, somehow felt a strange connection to that lifestyle. I was never in a gang, nor did I live in a community that had gangs, but I did act out at school which landed me in the principal’s office.
Being a chola wannabe fascinated me because no educator had taken the time to show/tell me of my infinite potential. I wanted to be a chola because I lived in a society that saw Mexican immigrants as invisible, disposable, unworthy of an education, and ignorant. Despite my parents telling me I could be whatever I wanted to be, society silenced their message. It muted their belief in my potential. “You will never amount to anything” has been uttered to millions of children by their educators. Those words inflect laser thin wounds, that when uttered over and over again, throughout the years, bleed out the dreams of generations. Some of us are able to escape wounded but determined to overcome. Others have their wings clipped before they could ever learn to fly.