Beyond Stereotypes to Acceptance

From my earliest of memories I have known that I have had a problem with gaining acceptance. My life has been a model of constant change and false senses of stability. I was born in Salem, OR in 1989 to a young couple. Shortly thereafter I was uprooted and relocated to one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City, Mexico. My father was born and raised there. My mother however was raised in Oregon. My parents were from two separate walks of life but decided to start a life together.

I am half Hispanic, part Native American, and part German yet I do not have a dark complexion. Most people at first glance can’t tell that I am a minority because of my skin color. I remember to this day the first time I realized my peers had stereotyped me. I was around five years old and a group of boys that I spent time around had asked me to take them to the store to go shopping. I said that I couldn’t and that I was just as broke as they were. One of the boys said to me “why not? You an American and you people always have money.”

I was then cast aside and ostracized for pretending to not have money. The truth was I was just as poor as they were and I was just as hungry every night when I went to bed. I was hurt by what was said and how they treated but I kept on going. When I moved back to the United States I felt the hurt once more. I had only learned Spanish as my first language. So I was ridiculed once more for not fitting in. I had now been labeled as an outsider and I hated the fact I didn’t fit in. From the ages of 6-18 I tried to fit in and gain acceptance in any way I could. I would do things I knew were wrong and things that were against the law in order to gain respect and acceptance from my peers.

It’s interesting to know now what I was willing to do to gain acceptance from my peers. The final truth came when I was involved in a robbery gone terribly wrong. There was a person whose life was taken in the process. I was an accomplice to a crime due to my inability to say no. It was easier to go along than it was to say no. I was more conscious of my potential acceptance than my own choice. I made choices to commit a crime instead of stopping it at all.

I was then sentenced to 25 years to life for my involvement. I took responsibility for the tragedy I had done. I then experienced a long couple of years where I was still searching for acceptance but now in a different setting, prison. I have realized now I was raised around stereotypes. People looked down on me for who I was but they never really saw me for me. I couldn’t change their beliefs or judgments about me or how I looked. They only judged me on face value.

I never knew why societies in the world had created labels, categories and prejudices for even the smallest reasons. I then came to make a choice to stop searching and enjoy the person I am. I focused on being accountable to myself and my family. I focused on gaining an education to break the mold. I am dedicated to success.

I encourage people not to judge on stereotypes alone. Gain knowledge before resentment towards another human being. I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit in, now I am living to not fit in. I am outside the box of others’ perception. I am striving to help eliminate stereotypes and start working towards race, gender and class equality.

Nestor

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