Early in my freshman year, my dad asked me if there were lots of Latinos at school. I wanted to say, “Pa, I’m one of the only Latinos in most of my classes. The other brown faces I see mostly are the landscapers’. I think of you when I see them sweating in the morning sun. I remember you were a landscaper when you first came to Illinois in the 1950s. And look, Pa! Now I’m in college!”
But I didn’t.
I just said, “No, Pa. There’s a few Latinos, mostly Puerto Rican, few Mexicans. But all the landscapers are Mexican.”
My dad responded, “¡Salúdelos, m’ijo!”
So when I walked by the Mexican men landscaping each morning, I said, “Buenos días.”
Recently, I realized what my dad really meant. I remembered learning the Mexican, or Latin American, tradition of greeting people when one enters a room. In my Mexican family, my parents taught me to be “bien educado” by greeting people who were in a room already when I entered. The tradition puts the responsibility of the person who arrives to greet those already there. If I didn’t follow the rule as a kid, my parents admonished me with a back handed slap on my back and the not-so-subtle hint: “¡Saluda!”
I caught myself tapping my 8-year-old son’s back the other day when he didn’t greet one of our friends: “Adrian! ¡Saluda!”
However, many of my white colleagues over the years followed a different tradition of ignorance. “Maleducados,” ol’ school Mexican grandmothers would call them.
But this Mexican tradition is not about the greeting—it’s about the acknowledgment. Greeting people when you enter a room is about acknowledging other people’s presence and showing them that you don’t consider yourself superior to them.
When I thought back to the conversation between my dad and me in 1990, I realized that my dad was not ordering me to greet the Mexican landscapers with a “Good morning.”
Instead, my father wanted me to acknowledge them, to always acknowledge people who work with their hands like he had done as a farm worker, a landscaper, a mechanic. My father with a 3rd grade education wanted me to work with my mind but never wanted me to think myself superior because I earned a college degree and others didn’t.
2) Get on a long plane ride. Look out the window. Understand the immensity of our world. Understand your insignificance. Understand your absolute importance.
3) Press the send button. If you don’t say it now, you never will.
4) Do not sneer at happiness or roll your eyes at sadness. Be aware that apathy is not healthy.
5) You are more than the amount of people who want to have sex with you.
6) That pit in your stomach when he doesn’t text you back, it shouldn’t be there. No one should be able to control you like that.
7) Shopping is cathartic. Buy the shoes and deal with one-ply toilet paper for a while.
8) It will get better, but it will never be perfect. Learn to live through the small moments of happiness. When they disappear, remember they will resurface.
9) I promise that cookie will not change anything (except that it will make you smile).
10) Please, please, take care of yourself. You are everything to somebody. You are everything to your self. That alone is enough.
Two. When you are angry, do not respond.
Three. Do not decide when you’re sad.
Chimamamda Ngozi Adiche, We Should All Be Feminists
The most powerful thing anyone has ever said to me: “You deserve to take up space.”
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air 2x09 - “Cased Up” (November 11, 1991)
I feel everything.
I don’t know which is worse.