Dismantling the System Against Us and Breaking Out of Eurocentric Beauty Standards
It has always been hard to love myself. There have been many proponents that have gone into this, but one that has truly damaged my self esteem is growing up as a Latinx individual in white spaces.
As young girls, we’re often taught that attention is derivative of your own physical appearance and how attractive you make yourself out to be. But, this only fits one standard--the Eurocentric standard of beauty.
In high school, I used to straighten my hair almost every day. I was always insecure about the darker tone of my skin compared to my white counterparts. And then there was the desire to be seen, loved, accepted.
In order for this to be achieved, you had to fit a box. One that centered around the way the girls around me looked--white skin, thin hair, and so many other features I simply did not have.
For me, not fitting into this box is something that I really struggled with and still do.
It was toxic to feed off of other white individuals' validation, but it is something that I had learned very early on in life considering my very small and white hometown.
My therapist often refers to this as, “The System.” The System that made me feel unlovable and ugly for being different. The System that often made me feel overpowered by the systemic racism that lives to inconvenience me.
Essentially, the way I viewed The System is all the built up ways white privilege exists and how it thrives off the expense of BIPOC.
The System is meant to disenfranchise BIPOC in every single aspect--whether it is personally, professionally, or the various ways it leaks into life. It is the reason why there are disparities in representation for women of color. It is the reason why the same women must work harder than their white counterparts, yet still lack the respect and recognition that comes with their effort. The System seeps into this--you either unknowingly benefit off of it, or struggle to survive with it.
At a PWI (predominantly white institution), it’s easy to fall back into this hurtful mindset. But, in recognizing what The System is, I regained some agency in why I always felt this way. I recognized why white individuals always felt empowered to speak up and it’s because they were always given the space to be heard. Once you begin to understand that, you can take into account that it shouldn’t just be white voices speaking. Not in class discussions, work meetings, or political debates. Through this, BIPOC should feel empowered to defy this System as we move forward.
It’s not easy to grow up believing that you are flawed because you are different. There is mass reform that needs to occur in various sectors--the media, education, and so much more. But the first step is recognition. In naming The System, I realize how much it has hurt me in the past and what I can do about now as I grow in the future.
It is the reason I appreciate my wide nose, the way my thick hair falls, and how my skin soaks up the sun. I am a culmination of rich history, and that is far better to recognize as a strength than a weakness.
Jennifer Garcia is a pre-law junior at The George Washington University studying Political Science and English. She is originally from Northeast Georgia. She is invested in helping out the Latinx community and is excited to share this piece of representation. When she is not busy working or studying, she enjoys calling her friends, playing Animal Crossing, and running.