Cultural clash causes internal struggle

Living a life torn between two different cultures is difficult. I personally choose to hyphenate myself and identify as Mexican-American because, although I recognize my luck for being born into this country, I still want people to remember the culture that made me who I am.
Recently, I have begun to regain the love for my Hispanic culture after years of self-hatred. Growing up, I lived a constant battle between whether I wanted to be Mexican or American. To identify as both didn’t feel like an option for me, because to other Latinos I was “whitewashed” and even the slightest hint of my Latino heritage made me appear “too ethnic” for Americans.
Being a person of color in America and living in a country where white culture is the majority can make having an identity different from the norm difficult. The constant pressure to assimilate into American culture had me slowly forgetting my Spanish and learning more English. While this has helped me immensely in my academics, in the long run, it has made speaking my native language seem foreign.
Nowadays, I am embarrassed because even though Spanish was my first language, my knowledge of it has slowly disintegrated to the point that I am terrified of visiting my family for the fear that I will not be able to communicate with them.
It’s upsetting that even talking to my own parents with confidence becomes hard because I’m scared we don’t understand each other as much as we should. Even though they do not express it to me directly, I can tell that it upsets them as well.
I know that my relationship with them isn’t hard because I don’t love them or because they don’t care for me, but because we just can’t talk to each other as much as we could if my Spanish was better.
My family will occasionally poke fun at my pronunciations of certain words and joke with me about being “pocha” — a Mexican person who has lost their culture — and even though I laugh along with them, it hurts because I know there’s a hint of truth to it. I don’t think I know enough about Mexican culture and it makes me feel guilty.
Although I’ve been extremely lucky with the opportunities I’ve been given, it’s important now as a person of this community to make sure that other people are aware of the problems we have. It’s baffling to me how we live in a country that’s supposed to provide opportunity to all, yet we have so many injustices plaguing our systems and have a man who calls us “rapists” and “job stealers” running for president.
Yes, everyone struggles and has problems, but there are specific hardships people of color go through.
Anyone who knows me would know that I have two older brothers who I speak highly of. Antonio, the second oldest in my family attended Stanford University — it’s hard to live up to, I know — but this didn’t come without challenges.
For someone as smart as he is, he was placed in ESL throughout elementary school and even part of middle school even though he had known English from a young age. He aced his tests in the class with flying colors, yet they still kept him in those classes even though he was more than capable of going into advanced English courses.
The same thing happened with my oldest brother Daniel. Each school year, he would notice that the same familiar faces with ethnic sounding last names surrounded him even during his regular classes, and although some of the people in his class did have difficulties with English, he knew he didn’t belong there.
It’s frustrating to know that — with as much “freedom” and blessings we have in this country — the system is constantly working against us.
This is exactly why I think it is important to discuss culture with my peers and correct them on the things that offend me, because, although not all the issues affect me directly, I know the struggle of being a woman of color.