Growing up in Puerto Rico, I saw some racial discrimination and certainly heard plenty of racist comments based on skin color. Though later I would experience otherwise, I was not a victim because of my light skin. Also in my favor, I was a child of a middle-class, educated family and the son of a public servant.
If racism was not foremost in my psyche at that young age, ethnic discrimination was not even in my lexicon. My awakening to the realities of life occurred quickly once I landed in Boston as a first-year college student. There, I was different and commonly treated that way. The offenses ran the gamut: name calling, the refusal of rentals, marginalization, subtle and direct put-downs. Unfortunately, I cannot say that such attitudes have ever stopped – to this day.
If that is the case, you may wonder, why did I stick around and succeed in most measures? The answer has several elements:
• Despite the bad experiences, most people are good;
• I have developed self-confidence and the ability to be comfortable in my own skin;
• I have the knowledge that – in matters of personal identity -- I am right, and “they” are wrong;
• I can always lean on my personal accomplishments and a reputation that no one can diminish; and
• I am extremely proud of my heritage – I am, and always will be, Puerto Rican to the core.
I know many people that share my heritage, Hispanic and Latinx, are extraordinary people in all sectors of society. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, noted playwright and performer Lin Manuel Miranda, and many, many others are living proof that we can do and be anything.
I am thrilled and proud that the Georgia Tech Library – fulfilling its promise of Library Next – has taken the initiative to create a virtual reading room, or “Libguide,” on issues pertaining to Latinx and Hispanic Communities and Heritage.
This will help anyone in the Tech community learn about issues of identity, representation, and culture, while also providing resources for further learning. It will help those of us in the Hispanic and Latinx communities, particularly the younger among us, to develop awareness of issues affecting our lives, both good and bad. But most importantly, it helps create identity and pride in who we are.
It will make the Georgia Tech community even better than it is. I am honored to invite you to partake of and share this information.
Rafael L. Bras
K. Harrison Brown Family Chair
Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth and Planetary Sciences