How to Navigate Spaces that Aren't for People of Color
by Veronica Young
My family really had a huge part in my life in terms of developing myself mentally. Family is important in order to understand yourself. Because of my family I was really pushed to pursue these things. Since I am one of the youngest ones in my family I saw my older siblings and my older cousins go to college go to high school and do things like that.
Chapter 1: Moving to Chicago from California
If I had lived in a safer neighborhood, I think I wouldn’t have to worry about playing outside as a child. So, I think that would also contribute a lot to my mental health. Just knowing that you are safe, you know, that you can just live and do whatever you want, would really affect me mentally. Because when I was little, I think I was like 10, I was outside when a guy got shot in front of my house, you know. So, I saw his dead body.
I was outside with my sister and we had been coming from the store. And it was summer, so it was kind of like the evening, maybe 5 pm. It wasn’t dark yet; there was still light. And we were walking, and we heard gun shots and we were like, “What was that? Those were gun shots!" Then we kept walking home and it turns out that my neighbor who lived in front, he was gang affiliated. A car drove by and they shot him. Then we saw the car drive past us with the people that killed this guy.
We saw him just lying on his stairs and he was dead. By that time the cops were on their way and everything. But it was just crazy. It happened really fast and it was a lot, but I can still associate until this day because it’s traumatizing. You never know when either yourself or your family or friends are going to be walking down the street and get shot or something. Something can happen. It was just really fast and a lot at the same time.
My dad came outside because he obviously was worried. He was like, "I just heard the shots, the girls are outside, let me look for them." We kind of just hurried inside and we were like “what the fuck? That could've easily been one of us!"
I don’t think we really talked about how we really felt. It was more just, "Okay, so this happened. I’m glad you are safe now, and I’m glad you are inside." I don’t think we were ever, like my sister and I, were ever asked if we were okay or if we needed to talk to someone because we saw this. It was just like “Okay, it happened, you are inside now, cool, let’s forget about it," kind of thing. It was just it happened and that’s it.
I kind of forgot about it. That's what I’m saying. That’s what happens when you come from a family like this because they think you are not going to talk about your feelings. But, in reality, you need to. What would have happened if I would have wanted to, I don’t know, let's say something like self-harm because I saw this. Or if I would have not gone outside, not gone to school anymore because I didn’t want to be outside and things like that. What would have happened then? So, it’s just this whole narrative of like not talking about how you feel and things like that that comes from living at home with Mexican parents and people that don’t really understand the concept of mental illness. As a person of color and coming from parents who are very strict you don’t really get to talk about how you feel. You need ways to cope with that, and also with the fact that therapy isn't accessible for everyone and it's too expensive. A lot of people can't afford it or don’t have access to it in their community, whether it might be in their clinics or whatever they attend for medical attention. In society it is mostly only accessible only for people that are white and not people of color. I mean, I definitely grew up in a household that has been really difficult to live in, but if I lived in a safe neighborhood, I wouldn’t have that trauma that comes with seeing that as a child.
I feel like my parents have an attitude that’s like “oh if you don’t go to school is fines”, so I don’t think I would of gone to high school, I don’t think I would of gone to college, I would probably gotten pregnant. I would have a child now, maybe 6-year-old. They [my sisters] have been to school, like they graduated, they don’t have any kids. And like we talk about like, “oh kids come later in life” and that’s why I know that’s what I want, you know. So, I think that by now I would of have like a child, if I would of not have the influence of other siblings, cousins because what I would have knows, you know, I don’t know. And I’m not saying that not every only child has kids now but like I don’t think I wouldn’t have the influence considering where I grew up and stuff, that’s what people see most of the time. Like young girls getting pregnant, and not going to school and doing this and that, so. Maybe I would of ended up like that. I don’t know, like it’s scary but I think I wouldn’t be where I am today, if I would be the only child, you know.
I think if I were white and my parents were white, and they were like from this country and I were 3rd generation American or something, I feel like I wouldn’t have the same chapters of my life. Because I would be white, my parents would have money and my parents would live comfortably. I’d have access to all of these things like a therapist, and I don’t know. I don’t know how people think, but I think I would be able to relate a lot and I’d obviously not be giving this book to someone like the community I come from, you know. I think I would talk more about things that I liked doing growing up, instead of difficulties that I went through. If you wouldn’t have to worry, if you live comfortably, if you’re privileged, you have nothing to worry about. You are going to talk about your piano lessons, and like your guitar lessons and ballet and things you did.
As a person of color and coming from parents who are very strict you don’t really get to talk about how you feel. You need ways to cope with that, and also with the fact that therapy isn't accessible for everyone and it's too expensive. A lot of people can't afford it or don’t have access to it in their community, whether it might be in their clinics or whatever they attend for medical attention. In society it is mostly only accessible only for people that are white and not people of color. I mean, I definitely grew up in a household that has been really difficult to live in, but if I lived in a safe neighborhood, I wouldn’t have that trauma that comes with seeing that as a child. So, I think that would also contribute a lot to my mental health. Just knowing that you are safe, you know, that you can just live and do whatever you want, would really affect me mentally.
Still, as of right now I don’t think I would change anything. I'm really content on how I’ve lived because it made me who I am today, and, elaborating more on my work, what I do as a person to contribute to my community.
How To Navigate Spaces That Aren’t For People Of Color: Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Moving to Chicago from California
In which Veronica reflects the impact that her family made on her life and helped guide her path.
Chapter 2: High School
In which Veronica recounts the story of a “young girl growing up in the ‘hood.’”
Chapter 3: College
In which Veronica elaborates on her struggles with mental illness, domestic abuse, and her community work.
About Veronica Young
Veronica Young's about the author would include only "my name, my age, where I was born." She is the child of Mexican immigrants, and she grew up with her mother and two older sisters. If she could give this book to only one person, it would be "someone that I kind of know but I don’t really know but I know their situation and what they are going through. And it would have to be someone from my community because I know they would be able to relate to what I have to say in a lot of ways, maybe differently but in a lot of similar ways. So, maybe someone that’s in high school, like the community high school in my neighborhood. I think I would give it to them"