Let’s use our privilege to better America

Ramos in Storm Lake on July 4.

‘I was lucky enough to be given a deck of cards that was in my favor, that allowed me to thrive, that set me up for success, and to live a life without fear.’

BY ERIC RAMOS

Every time I find myself complaining about something, my mom comes back to me with something along the lines of, “what are you doing about it to fix it” and lately that question has been running through my mind a lot.

My race and ethnicity is a branch of my identity that I have been exploring a lot lately. I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it means to be a person of color in America right now, specifically Latinx.

On our way to buy things for my mom’s “Parade of Nations” float in our city’s 4th of July Parade, my mom and I had a short talk about what it means to be Latinx in America right now.

We talked about what’s happening at the border and I mentioned that I didn’t know if America was worth celebrating today. How does one celebrate? How does one not be bitter with what is happening all over the country to people of color?

My mom brought some things into perspective for me in our short car ride. The US is all I’ve known, this is where I was born, and raised, so it’s easy for me to point out how things are in America on multiple aspects.

My mom was born in Mexico and immigrated to the US as a young girl. Her parents brought her here in the hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty and to give their children the possibility of a future that could have never existed in Mexico.

Today, my mom finds it hard not to celebrate, because of the future she could have had if her life had played out in her small village in Mexico instead of here.

 The American dream was real for her and, for her, it came true.

Now, we find ourselves in a place of privilege and we ask ourselves, how can we use our privilege to better a country that we love. I am ashamed to admit that I have been privileged enough to feel like politics didn’t matter to me. I didn’t think that it mattered because I believed that even if I spoke, my small voice wouldn’t make a difference and after all, it didn’t affect me.

The past couple weeks have included a lot of reflection. I’ve been checking the privilege I have as a Latino who grew up a citizen, with parents who I never feared would be taken away from me, who speak fluent English, and who gave me the world. I realize that at the end of the day… I got lucky.

I was lucky enough to be given a deck of cards that was in my favor, that allowed me to thrive, that set me up for success, and to live a life without fear. For the past 20 years I have grown up privileged and now I ask myself: What am I doing with my privilege to help others who don’t have it?

I have watched many of my peers fight for causes and be passionate about politics while I stood to the side blindly and said “that’s not my cup of tea.” Well, it is my cup of tea. It’s everyone’s cup of tea.

 Luck has placed me, and many of you here today in a position where we can choose to care or not to care. I promise myself to do better.

I will do better for the people of color currently in concentration camps that could have easily been my parents and grandparents and for people all over America who face injustice that I have not or will not face.

Today I realize that loving and appreciating the United States of America does not mean being blind to bad that this country is doing; loving the United States of America means believing in the possibility that it will get better because we live in a country where we are able to fight for that possibility.

So, as you celebrate today, check your privilege and realize that many of us have the power to better this nation and to challenge it to do better. Keep yourself educated and realize that the smallest efforts can make the biggest difference. As a first gen, I am sorry it took me so long to see that.

Eric Ramos is a Storm Lake High School graduate and a student at UNI.

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