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Minority Report

La Raza: My Awakening to Race in Our Society
Author: Monique Guzmán

I was eleven years old when I lost my innocence. I 
asked a question that completely reconstructed my 
whole perception of the world, from top to bottom. 
Having asked that single and simple question, and what 
I gained from it, has helped shape who I am today in a 
tremendous way.
It all came to pass in the springtime, when we would 
sweat while waiting for the bus to take us home under 
the piping-hot sun. 
The whole class was walking through the exposed 
hallway on the side of the fourth and fifth grade 
classrooms. I remember I was second in line, walking 
behind one of my friends, and I was followed by the 
rest of my friends and the class. We were going to my 
favorite place, the library, and I had a spring in my 
As I walked along the hallway and contemplated the 
warm sunlight and cool shadows of the columns on the 
pavement, I looked over to my teacher and I noticed 
something on her T-shirt. She was wearing a baggy, 
black T-shirt with white Aztec artwork in the form of 
a square, and what I think was the feathered serpent 
Quetzalcoatl, in the center. The artwork was lined 
with words, dates, and locations. A part of the shirt 
read, Día de la Raza. I had no idea what La Raza 
meant. I felt like this would be something good to ask 
my teacher about, and that it would lead to one of 
those smart conversations bright kids have with adults 
on television. 
As soon as the question “What does La Raza mean?” came 
out of my mouth, my teacher’s eyes widened. Her and my 
friends’ jaws dropped as they came around from behind 
me. They cocked their heads to their left, and caused 
the class’s pace to slow down.  After seeing all of 
their faces in shock, I knew I had said something 
terribly wrong. This was obviously not going to be one 
of those cool television moments where the adult is 
pleasantly surprised by a child’s curiosity and 
eagerness to expand his or her intellect. I wanted to 
take it all back but I couldn’t. I was terribly 
embarrassed and all I wanted to do was disappear. 
Unfortunately, I did not have that ability and I was 
forced to face the consequences that a simple question 
for explanation brought me.
One of my friends asked, “You don’t know what La Raza 
“No,“ I answered. She laughed and I could feel my face 
getting red. She consequently explained La Raza. 
“It’s what you are–you’re Mexican, right?” she asked 
in a serious but sort of sympathetic tone. 
“I was born here,” I replied. 
“But your parents are from Mexico, so you’re Mexican. 
That’s your Raza,” she fired back. 
To that I said, “Oh, okay!” and we all sped up. I did 
not fully comprehend this supposed clear and precise 
explanation. Our teacher did not say anything. She 
just kept walking with wide eyes and a tightly closed 
After that shocking and revealing conversation, I no 
longer had that spring in my step. Instead, I dragged 
my feet to the library but was not happy to go 
anymore. I could feel my eyes swell up with tears and 
my nostrils flare. I felt like crying partly because I 
had just been humiliated, partly because I realized 
what a naïve and blind little child I was, and partly 
because I realized that after this day, nothing would 
ever be the same. 
I realized then that the world wasn’t always what they 
told you it would be… rainbows and lollipops. The 
world was also a cruel, unfair, and challenging place. 
The world had both good and evil, and I learned that 
some people I would meet would judge me immediately 
after seeing me, my color, and my nationality. 
That day changed the way I saw the world and our 
society. Until that day, I never knew that people 
could be categorized as Latino, White, Black, etc., 
and evaluated by what they looked like or where they 
came from. The soft ribbon of innocence that tightly 
tied my eyes shut was cruelly ripped away, and my 
naked eyes squinted and burned in the brightness of 
truth. It hurt to realize that what they tell you 
about everyone being equal is a big lie. The way I see 
it, the society we live in has two faces. The face 
that you see that smiles and tells you that you’re 
just as good as everyone else, but at the same time, 
there’s a face that you don’t see that can be saying 
that you don’t stand a chance at succeeding because of 
what you look like or who you are. 
On that day I promised myself that I would not change, 
and that I would not judge people primarily by what 
they were on the outside, but by what they were like 
on the inside. I would remain uncontaminated by our 
society’s ideals of an acceptable person and 
stereotypes. I would keep my child’s perspective 
of “humans,” and see color, race, and nationality as 
something that is not a factor when it comes to 
choosing friends or hiring employees. 
And so now I am a young woman who is about to leap 
into the world of adults where I will most likely 
experience everything from disappointment to 
discrimination. And until then will I not see Black, 
Brown, Mexican or Italian. I will just see Human 
Beings–people who love, laugh, cry, hurt, and smile. 
There will be no Razas. The funniest thing is that I 
still don’t exactly know what La Raza means. I have 
some ideas of what it means, but frankly I don’t care 
to find out the exact meaning because it doesn’t 
matter to me. Also, if you must know, I am still 
terribly upset about my favorite day, Library Day, 
being ruined by a worldly revelation.