As a Latina raised by immigrant grandparents and a 15-year-old single mother, I grew up in schools where beautiful, brown skins radiated the hallways. However, I lived in a low-income neighborhood with underfunded schools so my family offered me its only opportunity for a good education by sneaking me into Gunn High School, the same neighborhood where my grandmother cleaned houses.
Suddenly, I experienced variants of microaggressions. I had encounters where peers would react with laughter if I said, "I want to go to college. "I remember having a tutor who sighed nonstop while helping me until she finally gave up and said, "Everyone else gets this. Why can't you get this?"
Her question perfectly encapsulated the sentiment I carried throughout my high school experience. Overtime, my sentiments of fear, hatred and self-doubt consumed my identity. I begged my mom not to go to school. Sometimes I'd cut class and cry in the bathroom. I felt uncomfortable going to school, yet I couldn't articulate why. I just knew I didn't belong, especially after counselors only offered de-stressing tips such as "How to time manage."
My cousin, brother and I ended up being kicked out of school by local undercover police for faking our address. In the letter that the school gave us, it stated an undercover police officer had been following us for some time and noted we never visited the address on our file. My overall experience was bittersweet — it took several years from my life in that I spent four years hating myself and an additional few years recovering from panic attacks and extreme social anxiety. The experience, however, motivated me to major in political science to ensure students of color have equitable access to education.
Annapolis Street, East Palo Alto
Caltrain tax letter
For the second time, Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine apparently has acted unilaterally, and this time has sent a tax-supporting letter on behalf of Palo Alto to public officials and agencies without discussion and agreement by the full city council.
I feel that this pattern of behavior is unacceptable.
We have discussions by a city council for reasons; one of which is to avoid a personal opinion being misinterpreted or misrepresented as that of the majority of the council.
I suggest we think very carefully when voting for council members in November. We need those who are willing to work together, regardless of their title.
Walter Hays Drive, Palo Alto
Black Lives Matter mural
In response to the Black Lives Matter mural on Hamilton Avenue — with the letter "E" being controversial because it has the image of a cop killer — I think the mural is doing its job because it is forcing us to debate the merits of (Joanne) Chesimard and helps to bring about the undue process that can come when someone is tried in the media without the full facts.
Warren Way, Palo Alto
I attended last week's special panel discussion about Foothills Park. Roger Smith, who wrote the guest opinion "Now's not the time for full Foothills Park discussion" in the Weekly on July 24, was a panelist. Smith prefers the status quo (with residents-only access) and cites the lack of sufficient city budget and higher priorities as reasons to leave things as they are. I cannot agree. While it is extremely important to enforce a strict maximum number of daily visitors, who composes that number is not of consequence to the preservation of the park. Crowds escaping COVID-19 sheltering pressures have lately come to Foothills in great numbers, and the challenges are many — but I am glad that people are using it. To care about the future of a resource, you must experience it. Why not rename Foothills Park on all web pages, materials and articles to "Foothills Biological Preserve," or "Foothills Open Space Preserve?" There is education in using the name "preserve;" it sets a different expectation than an urban "park." It is easier to accept that visitor numbers are purposefully low, and it is a reminder that visitors need to use the open space area gently. Since Palo Alto is not averse to renaming its institutions, having recently renamed two middle schools, do this small thing for Foothills. While the larger issue of resident versus nonresident access must be resolved in an orderly fashion, it should not be at the expense and abuse of this treasure.
Ferne Avenue, Palo Alto