White America in Europe
Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Do you ever just sit in a conversation and let it play out in its entirety, not uttering a word? Not because you agree, but because you disagree so strongly that the argument is just so surreal, and it renders you speechless? While the subject may have only lasted three or four sentences at most, it makes you spiral. What experiences and knowledge could have led to something so outlandish?
It’s been just over a month in Italy and some things have once more come to my attention. It’s crazy how listening to other people’s opinions can make you reevaluate your own. From what I’ve seen Europeans only really know about White America, and subsequently Black American hip hop culture. When all you know is what you’ve seen on TV it is easy to get things wrong. Hollywood has a tendency to perpetuate stereotypes and put black culture in a certain light. So when people watch these movies without the historical knowledge a lot is lost. I’ve had to explain why I don’t use the n-word. Skipping all the lessons on American history and all that has occured with the black community in America, the moral of the story is: don’t use the n-word if you aren’t black.
In class, we were speaking of stereotypes. For the U.S., another American in my class says “most Americans only speak one language, English.” Which got me thinking, that is a stereotype, per my last article people were surprised when I spoke spanish. The United States is a country of immigrants so why would this be the stereotype? When I needed to explain why I knew Spanish, I never thought about what the preconceived notion was. As a Latina in the United States, I’m a minority. I just never thought about what that made me abroad.
Who normally gets to go abroad? Privileged students. Students who have parents who are able to guide them to get there. Believe it or not (speaking to those who have never had to think about this), privilege is hereditary. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that how you grow up is a large factor in how you turnout. Now I’m not saying it’s the only thing, obviously. My brother and I were the first in our family to graduate highschool (CO ‘18) and I was the first to go to university. This is the reality for many latinx students, being the first, being the guinea pigs. We have no idea what we were doing and we can’t ask our family because they don’t know either. We can’t talk about the long hours studying or the stress we face because we know they had it worse. Going abroad as a Latina was hard, I had to look into everything myself, I felt bad about bothering the study abroad advisors (I later realized that I was well within my rights to do it and not feel bad), looking into every option and every suboption.
Yet, in Europe all that gets wiped away and I am just another privileged American. I bought a language textbook the other day it was like €27 (equivalent of about $30), a friend of mine told me I could have gotten it cheaper. To me it was fine (I don’t want to be a Karen), he said “you are rich you do not mind.” I explained how in the U.S. I had to buy language textbook for $65. I am by no means rich, I just come from a country that loves to make money off students. I worked three jobs this summer to make sure that when I got here I could do as I pleased, I won’t be made to feel ashamed of it.
I have met some European students who say they plan to move to the United States after their degrees are complete. Which made this entire thing more confusing to me. If you plan to move to a new country, why wouldn’t you look into the treatment of new immigrants? Of the minority they have now? It made me realize they don’t have to. If they were to move to the United States at this very moment due to them being European, and of lighter complexions they would assimilate into White America. Granted they wouldn’t have the same hereditary privilege as the others but they wouldn’t have to deal with discrimination to the extent that Latinx or Black Americans do. The U.S. is very heated when it comes to immigrant issues, yet it is easy to see there is a very specific target. There are many immigrants in the U.S., the ones that are having the larger amount of issues are the ones with pigment in their skin. That says something horrible about the U.S. and while we are working to change it this is the current reality.