I recently sat down with Jesus, an alumnus of Youth Era's Clackamas Drop, to talk about his experiences growing up undocumented, the impacts of systemic racism, and Oregon's white supremacist history.
Growing up, Jesus’ family often had doors closed on them due to their undocumented status. His father worked in construction to help support the family, but they were unable to access government assistance due to their citizenship status (despite paying taxes).
When Jesus was still young, he moved to Oregon from a Latin community in Arizona. Jesus explained that he experienced more microaggressions and blatant racism after moving to Oregon. The truth is Oregon claims to be this progressive utopia when in actuality, the state was built on white supremacy. Oregon has a long history of benefiting from the exploitation of people of color by those in privilege. Click here for more information.
Jesus explained how living as a Mexican-American man in the United States shaped him as a person.
He also shared that he experiences feelings of displacement daily, particularly when in gentrified areas.
Jesus told me that for a while, he struggled to find belonging in a community that punished him for his identity. He explained how the system we live in pushes communities of color into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Jesus noted that one of the ways individuals fight oppression is by staying true to their identity and authentic self. Jesus rocks a huge beard, and although he’s faced discrimination due in part to his appearance, he swears that he will never shave or compromise his Mexican heritage.
In a society that constantly polices those who do not fit a prescribed image, I feel Jesus’s words are so incredibly important for youth to hear. We need to fight against societal policing and discrimination, particularly against communities of color. Jesus’s final note of advice echoes this sentiment, he says: