Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Sellout (05/26/11)
TITLE: Will the Real Karen Please Stand Up?
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“I don’t want my daughter bunking with a Mexican!”
Karen cried for days. “I’m just like her,” she lamented to her mother. “I’m just a little darker. What’s wrong with that? Everyone in class likes my tan.” Only it wasn’t a tan.
Karen’s looks betrayed her. Her parents were born and reared in America, so they spoke only English at home. Ironically, they never wanted Karen to be confused about who she was, so in their ignorance, they scarcely mentioned heredity. Maybe they were victims of prejudice, or maybe they just wanted to blend in too. They never said, but it was an injustice that would haunt her. The few Spanish phrases she had learned from the elders were all she had of her heritage. When the old relations died, so did their legacy. Often Spanish speaking natives would stop her in stores to ask for a translation. She’d shrug and politely say, “No hablo Espanol.” This would sometimes bring a scoff and what sounded like a reprimand. Karen felt like a sellout.
If the so-called average American didn’t accept her, who was Karen? She tried hard to be part of the inner circle during high school; so focused on proving to everyone that she was just like them that she sold herself out. Now she was nothing. The ‘in crowd’ had not let her in, and no other crowd wanted her. Maybe she would embrace her roots and become much more ethnic. She was proud to be of Mexican descent, but that didn’t help her much. She studied Spanish, but Hispanics still resented her because she didn’t act Mexican enough. They said she was trying to be too ‘white’. Wait! Hadn’t she had just learned in her social studies class that Mexicans were Caucasians too? Yet these were the times of protest, of sayings like, ‘Viva la raza’ and ‘Brown power’! She was confused. The customs of her lineage were so watered down that in her home Mexican holidays were never celebrated and Mexican dishes were the exception, not the norm. Karen never had a Quincenera when she turned 15. But did that make her less of a Mexican?
Karen resented having two choose between two cultures. Her descendants had been in America for over 80 years! She wondered how long the assimilation process took before being seen as a ‘real American’. Did German Americans feel pressured by their kind to act more ‘German’? Did Irish Americans get scolded for not understanding Gaelic? When Karen went shopping she was often ignored by sales people. She surmised that they either judged her to be non English speaking, or worse, were just plain prejudice. The chip on her shoulder grew. All Karen wanted was to be accepted for who she was, a run-of-the-mill American girl who just happened to be of Mexican descent. If she understood Spanish –great! If not, who cares?
It all came to a head one summer night as Karen talked for hours to her Mexican-American friend. She too had suffered this dilemma of duality and had made her peace with it. She told Karen that God loved her; He created her to be just the way she was. Karen discovered that to reject herself was to reject the God who made her. She learned that He ultimately forgave the people who had spurned Him, and she resolved to do no less. The baggage of self-doubt and anger toward others had grown too heavy to carry, and she longed to completely surrender its weight to Him. She wondered if people would ever change their attitude towards her and concluded that everyone is in process. There would always be unrighteousness. In time, as Karen slowly began to release her control and walk in the freedom of God, there came a deep awareness that it no longer mattered who she was, but ‘whose’ she was.
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