“The biggest thing our heritage provides us, is that we don’t divorce our body from our emotions. The problem with that is that we also feel the weight of it in our body faster than our brains can process it.” – Dr. Eliza Bast, describing the Latinx experience
I sit in Poulsbo, beside the bay, where Coastal Salish tribes are the caretakers and I, their guest. The waters stretch in and out, needing to untangle themselves from the polarized atmosphere.
A group of healers and Participants of Color wade through San Francisco, mindful of our cultures and ethnicities. Hopefully the spaces we co-create together lead toward generative healing in our places of work, life, and home.
Seven of us facilitate these ethnic experiences, holding race, ethnic, and socio-economic complexities. It is really just one ethnicity among the richness of what is known as “Asian-American” in the so-called United States. Yes, there’s ongoing trauma, but we are banking on collective presence, imperfect connections, and newness.
As a Latina – Indigenous – German therapist and mother, Euro-dominant culture pits me against my Chinese neighbor and her against myself. Shame and sadness disorient me. Mexicans value family, work, and love. My Mexican ancestors joined Euro-Americans in committing atrocities against Chinese immigrants in both Mexico and the USA. I question, “who is my neighbor?”
Flashes. News alerts: “Uvalde…school…children….teachers…gunman…can’t process Houston, Dallas, Buffalo, Irvine…will it end…?”
Frantically, I google the shooter. Is he “white”? I’m sure it’s a male. This part is certain.
Remembering how a culture of oppression and racism carefully groomed the El Paso terrorist in 2019, I dread new truth.
Uvalde’s population is predominantly Mexican, close to the Southern border. My fears of conservative funding sources surface. I fear dollars that support gun culture, and the radicalization of Christianity will also harm the work we are engaging with Participants of Color.
“I am not a prophet. This is a pattern.”
Houston, Dallas, Buffalo, and Irvine, continue. Communities of Color are paying for white supremacy in all its ugly forms.
The shooter is “Salvador Ramos.” There are conflicting reports of the number of deaths. The body count is increasing.
“Is he Mexican?!!” “I hate it here.”
Alone. Clients gone; I stare. I am a light-skinned Latina. Ramos’ dark hair, eyes, and mid-toned skin, familiar.
I tell friends that one of the most beautiful aspects of Mexican culture is the norm for everyone to play with children, from older teens to adults. Children are welcome – Mexicans love children. I also explain how we love and revere the “Abuela.” Abuela is funny, wise, and firm. She’s earned elder-status and typically lavishes love and food on her community. I hear my Abuela whisper to “be patient” or tell me “eat for the hunger that is to come.” Mexican culture is imperfect but about family and community.
Maybe other mass shooters have been Latino/x, but to shoot an Abuela and children?
Compliance with white supremacy means erasing identity, historical, and cultural narratives.
I believe Mexicans allow the people with power who write the historical and cultural narratives to tell us who we are.
I am sick.
I try to cry or wail, but my head doesn’t hurt. Zero emotion. In Ramos’ fulfillment of a violent racialized rite of passage to white supremacy, complete with his death, I recognize my death. I no longer think, “Mexicans won’t do that. That’s not our culture. It doesn’t fit.”
Is this American assimilation? Now, Mexicans, too, carry the scar of perpetrator we didn’t before. Have Mexican-Americans truly paid off our supremacy debts with the murder of our children? Are we accepted in colonial gun culture?
When the El Paso 2019 massacre of Latinxs exposed, again, the racialized violence based on ancient purity culture and replacement theories, I sat stunned for days. The silence of what I considered church family and friends pierced me. There was no one to metabolize the pain alongside me in this tiny, Northwest town. White American norms impose compliance upon outsiders to remain silent in order to survive. And survive we did.
Mid-May 2022, in Dallas and Houston a shooter targets Korean women. Anti-Asian violence rips through OUR communities, I say “OUR” because none of us, not Latinx’s or any Person of Color, are immune to Euro-centered theologies and policies that promise privilege after both communal and individual violent racial hazing.
Days later, the so-called United States is violated by another racist massacre of elders, leaders, beautiful humans in a Buffalo grocery store. An 18-year-old targets Black Americans to contribute to genocide he sees as the answer to living in a multi-ethnic and racial world.
The violent patterns won’t give us reprieve.
Is the blood of our children the last hazing into whiteness? I doubt it. Still mostly brown, still less than citizens, even this won’t equal true citizenship.
Therapist Lisa Fann says, “That is an old and sordid story – giving up the beauty of our cultures to get the benefits of ‘being’ white – or at least getting near enough to get some crumbs under the ‘white’ table.”
Days go by. San Francisco sits on a shelf, cemented in traumas. Buffalo, Irvine, and Uvalde grow distant. The work I do requires hope in my chest, even while trauma debris scatters across our country. It forces me to look at myself differently, honestly, and more humbly. A reckoning of what is lost will hopefully heal the supremacy spaces I still live in – and where assimilation costs not only me, but my children.
*Image Credit: The mural is a master work and a labor of love by muralist MICHAEL SANCHEZ, with collaborating painters ALINA DE LEON, MARIAH HINOJOSA, YANIRA CASTILLO, ANGELICA DE LEON, and JOSIAH VILLANUEVA. The mural is located at 1200 West Main, in Uvalde, Texas. Click here to learn more.
Danielle S. Castillejo grew up in the swirl of a mixed identity, with a German father and a Mexican mother. With her four children in school full time, she applied to graduate school at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. Before her second year of graduate school, she was invited to explore her story through a Story Workshop at The Allender Center. She went on to complete Levels 1 and 2 of the Certificate in Narrative Focused Trauma Care and the Externship. Since our culture has experienced such an intense ripping and cultural identity crisis, Danielle addresses internalized racism and its effects personally, in her family, and in her community. She encourages other healing practitioners to do the same. Danielle began this process with her MA in Counseling Psychology and studies at The Allender Center. Danielle loves the anticipation of spring and summer in the Pacific Northwest, with the return of long days and sunlight absent in the dark winters. You can easily find Danielle out on a trail or working in her yard. You can also find her online at www.daniellescastillejo.com.