At a recent 4C parent event, there were several Hispanic parents sharing their experiences about what it’s like to raise children in Cincinnati. As I listened and interacted with this group of parents I realized I was learning a lot – about what I thought I already knew.
Throughout my career, I have had opportunities to work with many families. I consider myself culturally aware and competent. I have spent time looking at data, reading articles and talking with Hispanic professionals about the needs and values of Hispanic families in our community. But what I learned last night was so much richer. I heard stories about struggles these parents have faced because of language barriers; I learned about their difficulties supporting their children in school because their own school experiences were so different. These families want to communicate, they want access to resources and they want to raise strong, healthy children. But the language barrier presents a real challenge. Just as I had the opportunity to learn and share, you can, too.
The myth that Hispanic families do not want to speak English is just that: a myth. Many times I’ve heard that “they [Hispanics] need to learn to speak our language,” but what I think is meant by this is that we want Hispanic families to conform to our ways. We want them to contribute to our society, follow our rules or leave. But the fact of the matter is that I’ve met many Hispanic parents who share my values. They are already contributing. They have the same ideals, hopes and aspirations. There are commonalities between us that I believe unify and connect us. I am far from fluent in Spanish, but together at that event we worked to understand each other, language barrier or no language barrier.
I don’t intend to erase our differences. Nor do I believe that all of us looking and acting the same is the answer. The challenges we face do not look the same nor are our solutions the same. However our similarities can help us to find a common ground – a place to start to interact and build stronger, more responsive communities.