Brown Woman

By: Lorenza Figueroa
Illustration By: Steph M. Hernandez 

*I never felt so poor until I got here. I never felt so ashamed of my worn out clothes until I got
here. I never felt so incapable until those blonde haired and blue eyes talked so eloquently. Classrooms dominated by their presence. Brown, black, yellow, and red bodies not knowing how to express themselves. Once again, our existence becoming diminished…*


But I do want to express that I’ve found the courage to speak again, to freely express myself. To voice my ideas and critical thoughts, to critique those who have not lived the life of this brown woman. This brown woman with different learning abilities who had a mental breakdown because her recorder was lost, who runs back and forth looking for the right therapist please! no more white women who dehumanize my traumas, this brown woman who comes from a house that’s falling apart, house shaking because of our back neighbors, the trains they have endless journeys– no roof on our bathroom, catching the rat tails hiding deeper into the darkness of our attic, daddy saying that he’ll fix it, but years have passed and this brown woman only smiles and nods her head “yes” every time daddy says he’ll fix the holes in the house. He replaced the window with the bullet holes after seven years, “progress is progress” he says, “painting over our chipped, faded, blue house is next” he continues as he sips his canned beers, his 40s, smokes his cigarettes, takes his pills, his over-the-counter drugs, his addiction. But this brown woman accepts daddy with as much compassion as possible. No more yelling at him to stop, just hugs and acceptance, appreciating his presence. His smile brightens my soul, his stories and jokes minimizing my depression.

I critique them when they say race, drugs, and poverty isn’t necessarily a systemic problem. I say I do not blame my older cousins when I was told to pee in a cup at nine years old as they were strung out on meth, worried of getting their help denied, trying their best to keep sober, but this vicious cycle loves to interfere profiting from each bunk bed, setting strategic traps to catch those whose skin color is criminalized who suffer the effects of “the war on drugs,” drugs that were historically and purposely put into our neighborhoods, the crying effects now under the umbrella of ‘poverty.’ Another broad title to cover our realities, another word to justify the genocide of our bodies. They do not live the life of this brown woman. They cannot speak on the experiences of this brown woman. They taste the sorrows of my experiences, they hear the aches of mi corazón, but they cannot touch the resilience, the strength and the amor of my soul. They cannot speak on behalf of me, they cannot speak on behalf of us.



by Roxana Valentino
Illustrations by Carson Blumen-Green


To some extent,
I feel like a ghost of a past self.

The echoing off the walls
of my head
emphasize a new-found loss
of calamity.
Awaken and quiet
the cacophony.

Forcing myself into a haze,
swallowing a metallic taste.

Slightly because I’ve lost myself inside the daze
Enveloped in the fog,
I linger around as time blows away with days.

Where can I go?

To breathe.
And be.
And de-

compose myself.


I float above old self.

               A bent spine.


I never failed to claim it as mine.


I see it from below.


oh (wo)man,


i saw you once more

by Paola Ruval

Illustrations by Sarah Belle Lin

I saw you once more

under the hot blazing

unforgiving sky

standing behind those

blooming iron diamonds

whose shadows fail to hide you

Your eyes pierced out from behind

the dark cool lines

that cut your face into pieces

they whisper “Mírame”

I want to look away in shame

By then, the folds of my hands begin to unwind

blood drips deep from my fingertips

painting virgin roses on the floor

that glimmer bright without remorse

Smiling the roses rise from the dirt

fighting cruel sun rays,

they climb the traces of my veins

thorns against my knees I stand

as they sway away to familiar sounds

They dance my mother’s native tongue

I know every gentle syllable

I jump between their world of words

to understand my Tata’s laughter

to guide strangers under harsh fluorescent lights

to tell my grandmother I’m alright

Now I know you

you are a part of me.

we live among divided lands

you lie beyond the parted grounds

grounds lined with shiny rusty iron diamonds

that grew strong and tall from fear and hatred

I’ll never fully comprehend you

you’ll never fully know me

But we shall meet on crowded humid church afternoons

singing “Paloma Blanca”

on summer days watching Pedro Infante, Cantinflas

Tata’s favorites

under Cielitos Lindos

rushing for Piñata candy

unaware of its cultural difference

Until realizing that parts of us

in some of us

Chicanx’s or just Mexicanos Americanos

hold remnants of those virgin roses

those glimmering pieces of our culture

So I’ll walk with these thorns

soft petals, and lovely skies

to keep you close to me

Because although

I may never fully

be you

know you, or

understand you

You will always be a part of me.

The Not So Tall Tale: My Mother’s Escape from Communist Vietnam

by Sarah Belle Lin

Published Spring 2017

When I read my first tall tale in elementary school, I was fascinated by the fantastical descriptions of larger-than-life lumberjack, Paul Bunyan. Many say he created the Grand Canyon by dragging his ax across Arizona. He was an exaggerated, yet classic, representation of vitality and extraordinary strength. You can guess how in awe my little five-year-old self was. My imagination was one of my greatest pals during those years. That fact has not changed to this day. Even so, nothing could have prepared my mind for the story of how my mother came to America.

“I grew up in a war zone. I had to escape from my beloved home in the darkness of night with nothing but a set of clothes.”

I always knew that my mother was born and raised in Vietnam. I was not, however, aware that she was a Vietnam War refugee.

Saigon was her birthplace, Cho Lon her home. She had grown up and lived in a war zone until the age of 19. The day that North Vietnam became victorious over South Vietnam was also the day that Communism stole my mother’s childhood.

In Communist Vietnam, the poor class rose and attained financial status equal to that of middle-class landowners. This was so everyone could achieve “equality.” There were many families living on less than $50 a day. My mother’s parents were simply not able to support their six children on that measly of a budget. Before they could decide what to do with their situation, the Viet Cong threw them out of their house so that five other families could live in it.

“The Viet Cong were so fierce. One day they shot my grandmother in the leg. She survived, but became permanently disabled.”

Despite the horrors she witnessed, my mother decided to stay in Vietnam after finding a French woman, named Francoise, to act as her guardian. Their plan was to move to France. My mother bid her family farewell when they left to seek refuge in America but as the situation in Vietnam got progressively worse, her father told her to forget the deal with Francoise and leave immediately.

On a dark night in January of 1979, my mother fled from Vietnam with her uncle’s family. They put their safety and security in grave danger. Had they had gotten caught, they would have all been thrown in prison. By the grace of luck, they made it onto the harbor where a boat was waiting for them.

“It was terrifying because we had no idea if there were police waiting for us around the corner, at the end of the dock, or on the boat. Nothing was ever certain over there.”

They made it onto the boat and were transferred to a massive oil tanker. There, she found more than 2,000 other people — many of which included hundreds of families with their children and babies in tow. The destination: Kowloon, a city in Hong Kong more than 930 miles away. The cost of the trip? 10 gold bars…per person. The deal was brokered by an anonymous group of people who negotiated with the oil ship that was making its way from Taiwan to Hong Kong. It would take them around three days to get there from Vietnam.

“We sat down next to each other and when I mean sit, I mean there was not even room to lie down. The only time we could get up was to navigate through the crowd to go to the bathroom. People barely spoke. Our meals: crackers and water. We were never told when we would get to our destination. It was just a waiting game.”

Danger was still not kept at bay. My mother tells tales of Thai pirates who roamed the seas waiting to come across refugee boats such as the one my mother was on. The thing is, they were not like the tall tales I knew, they were real.

“One of my former schoolmates was killed because her boat was robbed by the pirates. We all pretty much knew what happened to my schoolmate after the pirates abducted her. It was so saddening to hear the news.”

After arriving in Kowloon, the boat was not able to dock. So they waited on the boat. For another seven days. The moment the refugees set foot on solid ground, they were hustled to a refugee camp. The camp was a four-story building secured and patrolled by armed soldiers. Still, it was heaven on earth. My mother would have a bed.

People were allowed to come and go as they pleased but the rule was to return before the midnight curfew. After it, the gates would close and stay that way until the morning, no exceptions. While she was in Kowloon, my mother felt obligated to spend most of her free time working a job that she had found in the city.

“I found a job as an assembly line worker in a factory. My daily work was to solder wires onto motherboards for computers. I worked every Monday through Friday from 8am-5pm for six months. I was paid minimum wage. I was allowed one one-hour lunch break and would go out to buy food, mostly chicken and vegetables. At night, I went to English class at a school that I enrolled in. I was expecting to meet with my parents and siblings who had already went ahead to America before me.”

After half a year of living in Kowloon, my mother’s parents beckoned for her to reunite with them. They had made enough money in America to sponsor a trip for my mother to travel over the seas. She would be able to call this new and foreign country her home.

“I was very excited to start a new life and reunite with my family when I found out that I was coming to America. I did not know much about America beforehand, except for the fact that everyone spoke English and ate hamburgers. When I actually arrived to America, I saw that there was a huge difference between America and Vietnam. I did not see anyone on the streets when I got here and wondered where everyone was. Back home, everybody is out on the streets!”

My mother likes to say that Hope brought her to America. When she reunited with her family, she saw around her a place where she could breathe and feel as liberated as she pleased. No longer did she fear speaking freely in public. Gone were the feelings of panic upon seeing the infamous green helmets terrorizing her streets.

“My family and I came here to America looking forward to building a better life. We should not prevent people from living out their dreams, especially if they cannot live in their own countries.”

In a way, I almost wish these events belonged to a tall tale. I would not wish what my mother went through on my worst enemy. Yet, these circumstances brought my mother here, to her family, to a new life, to freedom. This country isn’t perfect (who or what actually is?), but if the American Dream still rings true (and it should, as it is protected by the Declaration of Independence), then the opportunity for others to come and start anew MUST still exist. But is it still alive and well? Will we, as a nation, uphold these innate values?

“…they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

I pale at the thought: what if my mother was turned away at the doors? My heart pangs for those standing at the gate, their bones exhausted from a journey that they did not sign up for, whose fingers wrap around the bars of fascism rooted in fear mongering, misunderstanding, and hatred. Their eyes, scarred with images of ravaged homes and fallen loved ones, plead. They have nowhere else to run to. The threads of Hope fray with each day the bars stand in place.

“…among them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”

American is just one way to describe my mother. She carries pieces of Vietnam with her every day. She still knows a fair amount of French (from the French colonization of Vietnam dating back to the mid 1800s) and is beautifully fluent in Vietnamese (ordering Pho was never a struggle with her by my side). I’m not quite sure what else I’ll hear the next time I beg her for more of this story. But one thing is sure as hell– Paul Bunyan has got nothing on my mother.

Top left: My mother at the age of 16.

Right: My mother’s old  house in Vietnam, circa present-day.  

Bottom: My mother’s graduation from Cal Poly Pomona in 1989.


A Student’s Call to Action


by Anastasia Magaña

Published Winter 2017



An estimated 3.3 to 4.6 million people rallied across the globe together for the highly anticipated Women’s March in a not-so-subtle response to the inauguration of Donald Trump and his repertoire of unabashed misogyny, racism and uncensored bigotry. Political scientists coined the event, “the largest day of protests in U.S. history” but, was it enough to get Trump’s administration on board to support the causes represented in the march such as women’s rights, environmental rights, indigenous rights and transgender rights?

Trump’s response: a slew of  authoritarian-style executive orders and promises that range from cutting federal funding for “sanctuary cities” to banning muslim immigrants and refugees from entering the country.

Sadly, it appears as though what could be the largest demonstration in U.S. history was largely ignored and further shut down by the new administration with executive action, in what feels like a massive “white-lash” against the nation-wide rallies demanding basic human rights.

To make matters more divisive, vice president Mike Pence attended the “Pro-Life March” in Washington the Friday following the Women’s March where he declared on the national stage, “We will not rest until we restore a culture of life in America.” This comes days after the President signed an executive order which bans federal money being allocated to international groups that perform or provide information on abortions. Thus, the administration has made it clear that they will embark on the path towards enforcing federal action against the rights of women, immigrants, indigenous communities and all people, regardless of how many of us come pounding on the White House door.

So, what does this mean for those who feel like we’re fighting an uphill battle? Upon returning home from the Women’s March in D.C., I felt an incredible amount of hope and solidarity with people across the nation, knowing they, like myself, do not comply with the oppressive regime that’s come crashing down on not only the people of this country, but people all over the world.

However, it’s become increasingly difficult to remain positive when, every hour, there’s a new headline about Trump’s next move towards restoring America’s “greatness” by taking executive action to actively move progress towards regress.

Yet, that feeling of people united — hundreds of thousands gathered, indivisible to hatred — the feeling of true power of the people, is something that will neither be forgotten nor ignored. Now is the time to take note from the great pioneers who fought to incite change in this country during a time when no one conceived it possible — people like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez, and of course, Santa Cruz’s very own Dr. Angela Davis.

I saw Dr. Davis speak at the Women’s March on Washington and feel her words offer some guidance to those who feel uncertain of the future to come under this new wave of political instability, “Over the next months and years, we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice, to become more militant in our defense of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white, male heteropatriarchy had better watch out. The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance—resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music. This is just the beginning. And in the words of the inimitable Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’ ”

To those who don’t believe that we, the people, can create change, or that we are bound to lay victim to the legislative pen of white men, know that a resistance unlike any other is emerging, and that only with action and reflection can we begin to write the history we wish to see unfold. The power of people is not one to be underestimated — love one another, protect one another and most importantly, resist. Resist the temptation of ignorance, resist those who act out of hatred, resist from silence and resist from fear, for fear is the emotion which our oppressors pray to incite.

Our power as people comes not from what we do out of fear, but what we do out of love for one another through unification and solidarity. To all of those who fear for the future, you’re not alone; but as students it’s our job to remain critically conscious of the socio-economic and political environment in which we live and to use our knowledge to strategize against the most inhumane atrocities committed by our country’s reigning administration.

Together we must act, together we must resist and together, we will prevail in the face of adversity.



by Isabell Retamoza

Published Winter 2017

Making whole pinto beans makes me feel like the part of a ribbon that is closest to the edge.

Gently wash beans with warm water.

When I lived at home, to me, beans were comfort food. Warm, brown beans with bits of meat and onions mixed in. My father smiled a little bigger; my mother laughed a little harder; and we all sat a little closer at the table.

Pour beans in a large pot with twice as much water.

Like coins in a box—tithing to my ancestry.

Let beans soak until the beans touch the surface.

My mother taught me to make beans before I moved out. It was the last thing I needed to learn. I asked her to write the instructions down. She shook her head no. Why? I asked. Because, she sighed, making beans is a knowledge that is experienced and taught. Watch and listen, she said.

Once the beans rise to the surface, turn the pot to a low simmer.

Making beans grounds me. I feel my toes stretch out through the tile, concrete, and soil. I feel the women before me, who labored for my existence, who hold my feet, who run their hands up my legs and rest their hands gently on my hips and shoulders. I feel their small, tender fingers pull my hair down to my hips in braids with red and green ribbons.

Spoon out the foam that floats to the top.

I spent my childhood in Oaxaca. Our house had a warm orange light that swarmed through the cracks in the curtains that shined in people’s brilliant golden eyes. I walked to school everyday by myself in a navy blue skirt with a coarse button up shirt. I would scour the dirt looking for colorful bottle caps and use them to handcraft necklaces for all the women in my house.

Leave the lid off the pot.

Everything that was done in that house was loud; cooking, cleaning, talking, gossiping, dancing, eating, sleeping, fighting, drinking. The women rousted in the kitchen with their bright, ornate aprons and drank coffee out of miniature red mugs. We moved to Minneapolis when I was eight and everything got quiet.

Add hot water as needed.

Everyday I lose my language more and more. I feel counterfeit. I feel the fire from my ancestors kicking at my throat when I can’t find the words to communicate. I meet white people who speak better Spanish than me. My parents stopped speaking Spanish when we moved to the states. I lost it.

Add lard.

My father used to have long, thick, black hair. I remember breaking hair bands trying to wrap his hair more than twice. He cut his hair when we moved to the states. My mother used to wear chunky, gold earrings that shined through her hair. She stopped wearing those earrings when we moved to the states.

Add salt.

Being both Mexican and Native manifests a reflex of anger. Not anger in the traditional sense but a severe loyalty; an intense love. It is a red, hot aggression to be alive, to love, and to prove myself worthy of such blood. Blood that has been shed, shared, and consumed.

Test beans for color and tenderness.

Last summer, my father called me on my way home from work in San Diego. His words stumbled out quickly and loud. He hung up. His instructions were to head to the Jack in the Box a mile from the border fence between San Ysidro and Mexicali and find Manuel. I felt my hands slide and slip on the steering wheel from sweat. My father picked people up all the time. Our home was a safe house for many years. But I was never directly involved.  I took the twenty minute drive from downtown to the border and pulled into the Jack in the Box parking lot. I walked inside. Manuel and his wife Lucy were huddled in a corner with backpacks and orange dirt on their legs. I walked to the table and barely whispered, Estás Manuel? They barely nodded. I sat down. Dónde tienes que ir? I asked. Manuel handed me a torn piece of notebook paper, crumpled over and over again that it rubbed soft on my hands. I stood and turned to my car, motioning for them to do the same. Manuel grabbed his hat off the table and took hold of Lucy’s hand. I felt the little girl in the school uniform, the shades of women between her, and the woman with long braids interwoven with red and green ribbons. I felt all these women beat through me in full form like an exorcism. I want to go home, I thought. So do they, I said.


An Endless Desolation

by Lorenza Figueroa

illustration by Nenetl Mojarro

Published Winter 2017

“Why do you cause so much pain? Why have you been stalking us for over 20 years? Why do you consume my father, taking every minute of his breath? Why are you slowly taking him away from me? Why do you intoxicate our life with the poison of anger, madness, sadness and despair?”

As I lay here, I can taste the memories of an endless expedition. An agony that I’ve learned to silence as each year of my life passes, a mask that numbs every inch of my sorrows.

As I turn to my right, I can see the reflection of my mother. I memorized her internal hurt. Her eyes covered in disappointment, suffering, and a silent cry for help. Her frown carved permanently after so many years of disillusion. Her fragile body no longer resisting a pointless battle. Her harmless soul screaming, “I’m tired! Stop.. Please….”

As I turn to the left, I can no longer recognize that man who sits under that tree, surrounded by empty cans of infatuation, of addiction. Who is this man with forgetful eyes and an unpleasant odor of intoxication? I do not recognize him for he is not the one I’ve learned to admire. He is not the one who showed me strength and resiliency. Who is he? For he does not remember me when I speak to him, “Look who you’ve become! It hurts…” Wishin he’d come back, I watch him disappear like a mist disappearing between the fingers of my hand.

As rivers flow rapidly over the humps of my cheeks, I ask again,”Why do you cause so much pain? Why have you been stalking us for over 20 years? Why do you consume my father, taking every minute of his breath, why are you slowly taking him away from me? Why do you intoxicate our life with the poison of anger, madness, sadness and despair?”

Does Media Influence Perception of Identities?

by Erik Patino

Published Spring 2016

“You’re a ghost”, I say, “or I guess I mean the images people have of you-what they, and me, and even you, say you represent-those are ghost. And I’m a ghost, too.”                                                                             -Davis Miller, Approaching Ali

In early 2011, my friend and I were sitting in a parked car in a driveway drinking a bottle of whisky. We were listening to music, talking and reminiscing. Between conversation and songs playing, I turned on the car engine and drove around the city. Before I knew it, I saw red and blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. “Damn” I said, “I messed up”. I halted the car. A police officer walked to my window. “One of your lights is out.” He observed me. “I want you to blow on this breathalyzer.” I blew into the gadget and he viewed it. “I’m placing you under arrest for D.U.I”. I complied with his request, stepped out of the vehicle and placed my hands behind my back. He squeezed the cuffs on my wrists and placed me in his squad car. Inside the car I fell asleep. Upon entering the station the officer pulled me inside a room where he and others began kicking and punching me until I blacked out. I woke up the next morning. “What the hell, did this really happen?” I stood up and peeked through the door window frame. My friend was resting his head on his hands sitting down on a chair. I turn to observe the cell and see a bathroom and a bench. I sit down. “Fuck! I could have got him killed”. I felt guilty for having decided to drive and put him through this. In that moment I decided never to drink alcohol again. As I was sitting down thinking, a police officer unbolted the door and walked in with five officers behind him. “Immigration is coming to get you right now”, he said.  I felt anger stir up inside me. “What, you feel superior?” I replied. His face flushed red with anger. “Shut the fuck up”, he said, then locked the door and vanished.

Eventually I was released and began walking down the street, puzzled and in disbelief of the incident; being assaulted and threatened with deportation. I wondered how many underrepresented people in vulnerable positions were abused by police officers like him. When I had time to reflect, I thought about what his threat meant. His anger stemmed from his thought or assumption that I was an invader, an undocumented immigrant. I became a symbol of an identity. There was attached beliefs and attitudes towards his concept of who he thought I represented. He assumed I was outside of the law and at the same time defenseless. Threatening to deport me and attacking me indicates that he thought I had no one, no justice system to turn to or navigate.

While I regret my actions and have deep sentiments for people whose family are victims to drunk driving accidents, I still wonder about the police officer’s brutality. For, though I committed a crime I am first and foremost a human. I also think about people who are treated unjustly due to authority figures’ emotional attachment to a distorted image or idea that they think represents a person; a presumed identity that dictates how they treat them. That moment makes me understand the forms of racial hierarchy, and how divisions are created by predetermined and constructed identities. Hence, what ticked the police officer off was the definition he had of me. His attitude reflects that people are being influenced into categorizing and defining who people are in order to “understand” them, where to place them and how to treat them. The meaning behind the symbol I represent is one that I would argue has been fabricated and spread throughout society by a medium that reaches the general public such as the media, where there are images created throughout society intended to condense people’s identities. Placing a label on someone dehumanizes them, for they are not seen as they truly are but through a perceived notion which affects whether a person is treated with human integrity.

I want to consider why there are prejudices about racialized groups, specifically misrepresented people and how misconceptions are created. How stereotypes and perceived identities become formed in people’s consciousness. But also how viewing others through discriminatory identities manifest into harassment, police brutality, alienation, and social divisions.

I hold the argument that to construct a worldview is a natural and innate part of being human. People seek to understand the meaning of things, concepts, actions, symbols, words, and occurrences. As a result, humans are “meaning makers”—giving significance to experiences (Garland and Fredrickson, 38). By making sense of events and giving meaning to the world, they create beliefs about what is considered  “reality” and are able to interact with their surroundings. For example, people are not born knowing concepts but rather they learn them. Therefore, they construct how they see reality based on the meanings they have been taught. However, if people’s reality is oriented by meanings, then the definitions of concepts and what people hold as “truth” is subject to contextual transformation. For instance, an illustration of ‘meaning-making’, is that people in the old ages thought Earth was the center of the universe and this idea affected their perception of “reality”. However, it was discovered that that statement was false, and in effect, how they made sense of existence changed. In short, what people consider “truth” is liable to transformation and is not set in stone.

Knowing that meanings are susceptible to change, the media takes advantage of this fluctuation to allow viewers to create prejudice notions of different racial groups. One of the main ways media attempts to engage viewers is by creating an emotional association with an image. Through images of racialized groups, they adopt an attitude, which creates a constellation of characteristics based on a single representation; this increases the discrimination a racialized group encounters.   The construction of identities of racialized groups is done so that the viewer knows how to identify with an individual before actually getting to know them. Thus, people are being manipulated by pseudo-realities, and pseudo-identities, targeted at underrepresented groups, which the public mass takes to be real identities. The general public constructs the belief that those identities are genuine representations of a racialized group as a whole.

Using this framework allows us to understand that being exposed to mediums such as television, radio, school, and/or religion, will have an effect and influence our meaning-making decisions. People are vulnerable to any form of influence from mediums that reach them.  The majority of discourses influence people’s perceptions so as to create racial divisions and form an identity to represent a people. This is done so in subtle, yet discrete forms but upon analysis reveal a structure and characterization of racist ideology. For example, in the late night news  there are  constantly  showings of  underrepresented groups that have committed crimes, which misconstrue the image of who a racial group is. Once in my high school class, we were discussing an incident that aired on the news about a group of Mexican-Americans who assaulted a person. A student speaking about the incident and indirectly about Mexicans said, “They’ll stab you.” I was puzzled. I didn’t know any person in my community or family who had stabbed anybody. The only way he could have built up such an image is through associating criminal behavior with underrepresented people. Such a display of images in the media pushes the idea that if one person from a group acts in criminal ways, then that behavior is an attribution of all people from such a targeted group. In effect, this constructs an identity of stereotypes that are associated with underrepresented people.

In a study conducted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, an online survey was given to 3,000 non-Latino Americans. In this study, it was discovered that media portrayals about Latinos influenced their perception and beliefs held towards Latinos. The participants were asked to watch videos, listen to clips and read articles where one group viewed positive and the other negative portrayals. Thereafter they registered a questionnaire. The questions ranged from: “are Latinos less educated?” “do they use welfare assistance?”, “are they oriented with culture of crime or gangs?”, “do they take jobs away from Americans?”, or “are they undocumented?” Groups who saw positive representations agreed at lower rates. Whereas groups that viewed negative depictions agreed with the questionnaires at higher percentages. The survey concluded that media portrayals of Latinos affect the opinion of the recipients and in effect sway the stereotypical opinion of the viewer.

When I read this study it confirmed my belief that the media has an influence on how people view underrepresented groups. Thus, people are conditioned to think that the images depicted are true and stable representations of marginalized individuals, but rather these associations to an identity are being inserted from an outside force such as the news. In other words, I am more confident in asserting that the meanings behind concepts utilized to  “understand” people are vulnerable to media manipulation, rather than being based on ground or solid facts. The formation of identities through media portrayal controls how humans view others and the world. That is, what people call reality is actually an accumulation of skewed images.  The consequence of  viewing others through false representations is that it affects how people are treated and are not seen as authentic identities.

While this study highlights how people’s understanding of underrepresented groups are swayed by media depictions, it is important to note the umbrella term used even within this study; Latino as a nationality includes multiple races, but using one label gives the misconception that the study is speaking about one, and particularly, the same identity. For example, it can be argued that most of the participants generally thought of the term representative solely of a, more or less, similar identity. Whereas there are different Latino races and identities.

To attribute someone as violent, gang oriented, or undocumented immigrant is to assume that racialized groups have fixed identities. Holding an image or umbrella term ignores the complexity of people’s experiences and identities. When people are viewed through a fixed identity it does not allow the viewer to question the causes of the other’s situation, or circumstances, but rather to blame based on the surface level of what they see. It creates a superficial dynamic where people think things could be solved if a group would act other wise. That is, it does not explain or show the factors that play out in people’s lives. As cliché as it sounds, when one believes a narrative about a people it doesn’t allow a person to understand another’s humanity or their experience. Being persuaded to believe this myth makes it easier for people to stereotype, harass, target, brutalize, and seclude others in a grander scale.

After learning that media influences people’s meaning-making perception I became aware that repeated images about underrepresented groups become greater than constructed identities. The symbolization of people translates into events such as police brutality, alienation and political practices. I became concerned that despite racism already existing , media manipulation could inflate into something greater. I would like people to remember that behind a label there is a human experience. Also, to be aware of how meaning making is taking place throughout society and to be in control of one’s perceptual awareness. A label does not decipher a people’s authentic experience, political relations, and factors that play out within societies.