Jairo Soto October 24, 2012 Professor Burns English-1301 The man behind the mask I live my life behind a mask that was created by life itself. I look around myself and I see light, but upon a reflection I see darkness. My name is Jairo Soto, and my Mexican and Spanish origins are contrasted by my world around me in Dallas, Texas. I have grown up here, so I assume my sensitivities to such observations have dulled. With age, however, these senses at times seem sharper than ever before.
I see these lines of cold-hard reality and truth burrowed into the forehead of my mother as she scolds me to be careful of how I present myself in public and how late I stay out at night. My mother, born in Mexico, is the most wonderful, whole-hearted woman I know. She is as solid and complete of a human-being as her English is broken and weak. For this, she is characterized by the outside world as uneducated and mentally deficient, but I know those burrows in her forehead represent years of perseverance, courage, and hard work for the betterment of my family.
I know her scolding is a desperate cry for me to help protect everything she has built for us. Trying to come to terms with protecting my mother’s labor of love as I try setting into motion my own path in life brings me to the story I am about to share. It was a cold autumn night, as the wind began to whistle by my ear as the leaves crackled underneath my feet. I was wearing my favorite winter shirt, a black Mexican National Soccer sweater with a hooded top. I love soccer and carry a pride for Mexican soccer, but unfortunately cultural pride was not what the outside world saw when I wore my favorite sweater.
My mother had warned me of this fact when I walked downstairs to head out for the night. “Be careful mijo,” my mother said to me as I went to kiss her goodbye. I obliged for a moment in order to bring her calm and peace of mind, although I knew in my heart that I was going to put it right back on. I was not going to put my sweater back on out of defiance, however, but rather out of principle. I am an American. I was born in Los Angeles, California and have grown up here in Dallas.
As an American, I feel as though I have the freedom to wear whatever sweater I want, and that if I substituted this freedom for the fear of judgment by others, then I would never truly be free. I got into my car, and started driving to my friend Daniel’s house to get a textbook I left at his house. As I turn the corner of my street and make my way onto the main road, I catch a police officer in the corner of my eye. Although I am obeying all the traffic laws of the city, I feel a cold sweat make its way down the back of my neck.
I can feel the officer’s eyes sharpen on me. He sees a black car in the middle of the night driven by a hooded figure, not a college kid wearing a soccer sweater in a car his parents rewarded him for making straight A’s to pick up a textbook. I know all he sees is the mask instead of Jairo Soto. I continue to drive to the traffic light, where I see the blinding lights of red and blue flash in my rearview mirror. The large, white officer approaches by window with his powerful and daunting struts.
My heart begins to race, as I hear over and over again in my head my mother’s words, “Be careful mijo,” The officer asks for my license and registration, and as he observes the registration documents I reach into my pocket to hand him my temporary identification I had on me. I see his eyes become bigger than the full moon in the autumn sky as he took a step back and yelled, “Hands up in the air and step out of your vehicle! ” I thought of my younger sister and my mother as I raised my hands in the air. The officer opens my car door and I step out. He frisks my pockets, yet all he finds is my temporary ID sheet and my mother’s rosary beads.
I desired to tell him “I told you! ” but the words were held in the back of my throat by fear. The officer stared me down, and then apologized before letting me go. “My apologies, we had a car theft that matched your vehicle’s description, but you may go now and be careful. ” Although relieved, I also had a sick feeling in my stomach. I felt as though I did something wrong, even though I know I did not do anything wrong. I know deep in my heart that it wasn’t my vehicle that matched the thief’s description, but rather it was my Mexican skin and clothing of choice.
I thought for a moment of getting rid of my sweater, but I just couldn’t get my hands to unclench the hoodie as it dangled above the trashcan. To me, this act would be a representation of throwing away a piece of my life, my personal identity, and freedom. By going through this event, I decided, it was going to make me stronger, not weaker or more afraid. I would continue to live life as a good citizen behind the mask of doubt and ignorance. Hopefully, as time goes on, more people will take a look beyond the facade of ignorance, hate, and stereotype, and see Jairo Soto, upstanding citizen of Dallas, TX.