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Barrington High School. (Photo by Liana Fu)

Barrington High School. (Photo by Liana Fu)

By Liana Fu, Barrington

Every morning since he was six, sophomore Javier Viveros has woken up to go to work with his dad.

“He taught me to work hard and to not depend on anyone to get anything,” Viveros said. “At age seven my parents were raising me like I was 17.”

He worked in a factory last summer, rolling 100-foot cables instead of enjoying vacation like other kids. He had one day to relax before the work started at six in the morning and ended at five in the afternoon. But in spite of the hours of his life spent working, others are quick to judge him for his race and little else.

“People judge others but they probably wouldn’t be able to walk in their shoes. They judge me because I’m Hispanic. I just walk away,” Viveros said.

Viveros can walk away, but he can’t stop the fact that others—especially in light of the growing normalization of discrimination against Hispanics—will look at him differently.

“If someone saw a Hispanic they’d think he’d probably grow up passing drugs over the border or this or that. They’re never going to see that he’s probably going to grow up to be a good person. They think he’s going to grow up to be a mechanic or something, never a lawyer or engineer,” Viveros said, toying with the ear buds around his neck.

“Just because I’m Hispanic doesn’t mean I have to listen to Mexican music. Just because I’m Hispanic doesn’t mean I have to talk in Spanish. Just because I’m Hispanic doesn’t mean I always have to be working. Just because I’m Hispanic doesn’t mean I have to ditch class, doesn’t mean I have to do what they think I do. I’m just trying to build my future.”

And he doesn’t want to be what others think he is. His parents taught him to be more.

“My parents always told me to stay out of trouble,” he said. “‘Study so you won’t be like us.’”

Sophomore Jerry Castillo’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico when they were around his age—15. They also taught him to work hard. But working hard isn’t working for some anymore.

“Donald Trump calling us all rapists and criminals adds more to the fire,” Castillo said. “He’s the person that some people look up to. A lot depends on how he expresses everything.”

Sophomore Omar Barragan, Castillo’s best friend, chimed in. “In the hallway, these two kids were wearing their Trump hats,” he recalls. “I was just talking with my friend in Spanish and laughed a little. And then they thought we were talking about them when we weren’t, so they passed by and said, ‘I hope Trump builds a big wall so you guys can all go back and never come back.’”

“Not all of us are the same,” Castillo said. “Not all of us have the same values or interests. All of us were raised differently.”

While Castillo realizes that people come from different backgrounds and families, he has an open mind. “I have friends who are Donald Trump supporters and they really don’t care, and I really don’t care. They can’t do anything about changing me or them. When everything goes well, you can have respectful conversations,” he said.

In his free time, Barragan likes drawing. “It calms me down,” he said.

“I used to play the violin,” Castillo said. “From like fifth grade to freshman year.”

Barragan jumped in. “I like spending time with my family. Thanksgiving, Christmas…”

“Well,” Castillo said. “My birthday kind of sucks because it’s the day before Christmas and they rip me off by giving me one present for both.”

They pause and laugh.

“My parents taught me to not hate someone I barely know,” Barragan said. “To get to know them, talk to them, to get to know what they’ve been through.”

“Whenever you have an opportunity to talk to someone else,” Castillo said. “Take it. Differences can make more interesting conversations.”

Senior Anjali Narayanan starts those conversations. She has South Indian roots, but she’s grown to be much different than what’s expected of her.

“In Indian culture, respecting your elders is huge, but my brother and I were never turned away in my family for asking questions,” Narayanan said. “My parents sat me down when I was twelve with a bunch of books on different religions and told me what they believed and why, and I could make my choice.”

Because her parents embraced an open mind, Narayanan learned lessons that still stick with her today.

“The person comes first, before their beliefs and what they stand for—as long as their beliefs don’t hurt or discriminate against anyone else. Everyone deserves to make their own choices.”

Narayanan saw the importance of having an open mind in her religiously diverse friendships.

“In seventh grade, I remember having a conversation where I explained what I believed and why, and my friend did too. Throughout the conversation, it wasn’t about trying to prove which side was right. It was more about understanding why you believe what you do. We walked away knowing more about the other person,” Narayanan said. “The best part about having a diverse group of friends is having those conversations. And you become friends with them for what’s actually important.”

Senior Zaynah Javed isn’t Indian, which she says shocks a lot of people.

“Most people assume that all South Asians are Indian, when the truth is, there are a lot of countries in South Asia,” Javed said.

“I come from a family that practices religion but I don’t. I consider myself to be a Muslim though. A big stereotype is that all of us are dangerous and a threat to society. It’s wrong and hurtful.”

“I’ve always felt different to a certain extent,” Javed said. “There’s a heavily white population in Barrington, and being a Pakistani-American definitely makes me feel like I’m not part of the community. I look at my life differently than a white male would. It feels isolating sometimes.”

Javed is fearful of what’s to come, but she remains open and accepting.

“I’m pretty afraid about the Trump presidency but I’m open to see what he does. Nothing has happened yet, so I shouldn’t assume things about what will happen, just like I don’t want people to assume things about me. I have to keep my mind open going into the next year.”

A Jewish student who chose to remain anonymous identifies as nonbinary, or genderqueer. They don’t fit into the labels of male and female, and they’re frightened about what the election means for them.

“The language used to refer to queer people during the election, especially by Pence and Trump, had a lot to do with predators,” they said. “There’s this idea that they don’t belong in society, that they’re not your next door neighbors, that they’re not people that you know. I’ve grown up my whole life in this community. I’m just like any other member of Barrington. There are aspects of my identity that are different but that doesn’t make me a different person. I still have the same values as before.”

“I’m extremely scared for my Muslim and undocumented friends. I’m less worried about queer identities than I am about people who are Muslim being deported; they’re friends I’ve grown up my whole life with,” they said. “I’m worried about the polarization of society in the midst of all this hate, where people will turn on friends and family because of political leanings. I have relatives who voted for Trump, and they would leave the conversation every time the election came up because the rest of my family is very liberal.”

To them, diversity is more than having people of different backgrounds in the same room.

“Diversity is the blend of individuals from all intersections of power and privilege coming together to learn,” they said. “And to learn from one another.”

Vivero works two jobs now, and he’s still looking forward to what he can offer to others.

“I would talk to other people,” Viveros said. “Not to make them feel bad, but to help them be the best they can.”

Editor’s note: Anjali Narayanan also writes for Mash Insider. 

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About lfu17

Liana is a senior at Barrington High School and the founder of The Writers’ Block, a writing club. She loves reading (nonfiction), chasing pigeons, and helping fellow writers grow. Her creative nonfiction work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and by her mom, whom she loves dearly. She edits prose/poetry for Inklette Magazine, The Blueshift Journal, and Polyphony H.S. Along with The Mash, she contributes to Sprout Magazine and Living60010.

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