Nothing left to lose—Being Latino and the Poverty of Expectations

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”
-Janice Joplin

Talking to other Latinos I have come to realize one thing: most of us were not told that we were worth an education. The stories I have heard ranged from teachers telling students that they should go to vocational school to parents saying “we (Latinos) don’t go to college.” I am not sure how common this is for Latinos overall: I just know what I have experienced and been told in my life.

Some of us, like myself, take the dearth of expectations as a blessing; how better to live an authentic life when the only real expectation (a hope, really) was avoiding jail? As a Latino being raised by a single mother with a GED education it was not like the entire world’s doors were open to me. But, I write this all to say that I am an outlier in life—most of those in my position would not have turned out the same way.

Especially for Latinos, education is the key to opening the doors of prosperity. Yes, the exceptions can always be pointed out—the Bill Gates and the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world—but these stories are nearly as common as the dropouts who turn to a life of living paycheck to paycheck. We should acknowledge the works of others without denying ourselves the truth that a college diploma is worth nearly a million dollars more than a high school diploma (source).

We as 1st generation Latinos need to make sure that the sins of our fathers are not continued onto our children. We cannot and should not be okay with the all-too-common phenomena of inferiority as a life goal. More often than not society holds low expectations of us (commonly alongside our own families and friends) but we need to take this unfortunate reality and see it as it truly is—freedom to live our lives as we see fit. If we push ourselves against our barriers, against the naysayers and their ilk, nothing can stop from breaking through them and reaching our true potential.

We need to push our children to do and be more. We need to be the mentors that our children do not have in the classrooms, newsrooms, and boardrooms. Not seeing individuals who look like us in positions of power should not make us afraid of failure but should instead steel our resolve against it. If we do not embrace our freedom now then we ourselves—and not society—will be the ones casting the chains of mediocrity upon our own children.

– Pierre M.

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