Araceli Lopez is a 44-year-old Mexican woman who grew up in South Central, Los Angeles. She worked for more than twenty-five years at a family-owned company, and afterwards went back to school. She is now a paralegal program facilitator at a community college, and has two sons.
Araceli Lopez grew up in South Central, Los Angeles. There were lots of Hispanics, Mexicans, and African Americans in her neighborhood, and the neighborhood was not the best. There were a lot of drug addicts, and it wouldn’t be uncommon to see someone doing drugs when she was walking to school.
Lots of the parents that moved to her neighborhood were immigrants, and because of this a lot of the children didn’t speak English as a first language. The schools concluded that the children needed help with their language, and because of this Lopez didn’t end up in fully English classes until the sixth grade. According to her, the system just thought that the kids needed that, and it was automatically introduced into their learning.
Being Raised by a Single Mother
Araceli Lopez was raised by a single mother, and because of this she experienced a big reversal of gender roles from the way her mother was raised. Her mother came from a family of 16 children, and the parents expected their children to fulfill typical gender roles. The girls were expected to wash the dishes, cook, and do laundry, while the boys were expected to do yard work and more of the heavy lifting. Because Lopez was raised by a single mother, however, the expectations during her childhood changed. Her mother expected boys to rinse their dishes and make their beds, which was a positive because it allowed the family to be more efficient and work together as a team without gender roles getting in the way.
Lopez feels more in touch with her Mexican heritage than her American one, and a main reason is because during her upbringing it was always Spanish speaking, and she spent a lot of time in Mexico.
“Uh, my mom, my mom could not afford to leave me with the babysitter for example. So let’s say today was the last day of second grade, we were, we would be on vacation for two to three months, um, and tomorrow I was already in Mexico because my grand-, you know, that’s my grandparents would take care of me, they would look over me, just because my mother didn’t have anybody else to care for me here.”
This shows the hardships her mother faced as a single mother, and connects to another challenge her mother most likely faced: the mom-bias. The mom-bias is “bias against parents — and specifically mothers — arises out of a workplace culture that favors unencumbered workers…‘Employers like people at work who are a hundred percent committed, so they don’t have to take a leave of absence, they don’t have to take breaks, they don’t have to ask for accommodation — the employers favor those employees.’ As a result, managers operating under pressure to hit quotas are often really hard on employees with obvious limitations or outside obligations” (Murray). This is something that many moms in the workforce experience. For single moms such as Lopez’s mother, however, it can be especially challenging. Not only is it more important for a single mother to have a paid job since she is often the sole provider for her children, but she also is more likely to need accommodations since she is the only one there, which would make it all the more likely that she could be fired. This cycle just makes single-parenting even harder, and is an inequity that definitely needs to be more addressed in the workforce.
Mexican Heritage and Values
Lopez’s grandparents greatly valued marriage. However, work was extremely valued by both Lopez’s grandparents and mother. To her mother, starting work right away was more important than college, and because of this, she didn’t end up going back to college for a long time. Going to school was seen as being lazy, and Lopez’s grandparents didn’t quite see what school could bring you. Her mom also thought work was an important priority, and so Lopez didn’t end up going back to school until she was already married and had children.
Lopez’s mom’s values about work are very connected to her struggles as a single mother, and connect to the ideas of Bell Hooks. According to Bell Hooks, “Masses of women feel angry because they were encouraged by feminist thinking to believe they would find liberation in the workforce. Mostly they have found that they work long hours at home and long hours at the job” (49). This quote essentially talks about how women thought the workforce would free them, but instead it basically ended up just being a second job because they still had to take care of the children when they got home. Being a single mother, Lopez’s mother had to deal with this situation frequently, not having the ability to get help and thus taking on the role of both the stay-at-home and the working parent. This could be a main factor of why Lopez’s mother believes work is so important, because to her it was the main way she was able to provide for her family.
During our interview, I asked Araceli Lopez what she thinks about all the discrimination happening in our country against Spanish speaking people, simply because they are speaking Spanish. She talked about how there is so much prejudice, and how Trump’s opinions and how he is running the country have made it so much worse. If the main “command and chain” is promoting and supporting all of the hatred and the prejudice, it makes it hard to see it going away.
She also mentioned AOC, and how a Congressman had been extremely rude to her and disrespectful.
“He was white and she’s Hispanic. So a lot had to do-I mean that’s that’s-it’s pretty obvious that a lot had to do with that. So yeah, it’s, it’s sickening, in my opinion. It’s sad. It’s not, it’s not, it’s not right. It’s wrong, on every level [laughed]. Just because of your, of your heritage, your call-your, uh, ethnicity or your language, I mean, it doesn’t make any sense to me, at all.”
In an article by Yara Simón, Simón talks about how there have been lots of incidents of customers being verbally attacked and women being harassed simply because they were speaking Spanish. According to Simón, “The two incidents both show and reinforce that in the United States, people can be a target for simply communicating in a language that isn’t English” (Simón Remezcla). Connected to Lopez’s views on how prejudiced it is to be disrespectful (or worse) to someone simply because of their language, Simón explains that in the United States, this prejudice is really happening all the time, and it is basically allowed to happen because of the state of our country. As Lopez mentioned, Trump’s leadership is a prime reason why there is so much more hate than before being allowed out in the open, and Simón seems to agree: “It’s something that I’ve braced myself for since reading that hate crimes have risen in the era of Donald Trump, but I know that if it happened to me, I might be shaken, but ultimately, I’d be OK” (Remezcla). She is acknowledging here how the country really is more prejudiced than before, at least openly, and that it is in large part due to the leadership in the United States and Donald Trump.
Gender Discrimination and the Wage Gap
When I asked Araceli Lopez if she had dealt with any blatant discriminatory experiences, she immediately brought up the pay gap. About halfway through her 25 plus years in her first job, there was a position that she applied for to be transferred to the “buying department.” 2 males and 3 females applied, and she ended up getting the position and being transferred. She was happy and excited about this. However, a few years later she learned more about her salary and the varying offers. By chance, the offered pay happened to come up in conversation between herself and one of the males that had applied to the position. She learned that he had been offered 3 dollars more per hour for the same position, even though he would be doing the exact same things and performing the exact same responsibilities. This 3 dollars was a significant amount and had no justification for being offered to one person and not another. Lopez even tried to come up with reasons for why this was the case, but to no avail:
“So I was thinking, okay, maybe he’s, uh, he has more of an education, right? Again, always trying to give the, the benefit of the doubt. He did not, right? Oh, maybe he had a degree in, in this-maybe you know… He did not. He did not. There was nothing different. Nothing, not one thing.”
In the education lecture we watched in class, we were shown a chart depicting how much women of different races make in comparison to the white man. This chart shows the extreme difference of pay between men and different groups of women, and how it can take almost an extra year for Latinas and Native women to earn the same money as a white man. This gap is a giant problem, and shows how Araceli Lopez’s experience was not just a one-time thing, but rather one of many examples that show employment discrimination based on race and gender.
Araceli Lopez’s main advice for me was to not stop my education, but rather continue it if possible. If people discriminate against me or treat me poorly, there are a lot of websites I can go to that can help me, and I can also try to educate the person that I’m having a problem with. I can tell them about my personal experiences and also tell them they can look up what they don’t understand. Through this, they could possibly unlearn the discriminatory tendencies they were raised with and even educate others in the future. I think this is a great idea and promotes how educate can really change people’s views, opinions, and biases.
After listening to Araceli Lopez’s stories and experiences, it has definitely made me think about experiences in my own life. Her family greatly values their Mexican heritage and where they come from, but also had some struggles with separating important traditions from more gender-based ones. My family is Jewish, however we are not incredibly religious, and this differs from some of my relatives who are Orthodox Jews. Learning about the different values and traditions that my relatives have helped to show me some of the ways in which traditional Orthodox values can be overly gender-based. However, getting closer to these relatives also helped me feel more connected to my heritage, and learn more about who I am and value this heritage the way Araceli Lopez and her family do. I also plan to continue my education and keep her pay gap story in mind, in hopes that if I am discriminated against and offered less because of my gender/other, I will be able to stand up and get better treatment for both myself and other women dealing with the same issues.
Hooks, Bell. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics. W. Ross MacDonald School Resource Services Library, 2016.
Murray, Stephanie. “We Talked to an Employment Lawyer about ‘Mom Bias.’ Here’s What She Wants You to Know.” Https://Www.thelily.com, The Lily, 28 July 2020, www.thelily.com/we-talked-to-an-employment-lawyer-about-mom-bias-heres-what-she-wants-you-to-know/.
Simón, Yara. “Why the Aaron Schlossbergs of the World Won’t Stop Us From Speaking Spanish in Public With Pride.” Remezcla, 22 May 2018, remezcla.com/features/culture/why-we-wont-stop-speaking-spanish-in-public/.