By Jeremy Castillo —
As a person of color and being trans, I have felt the lack of acceptance from the white community. It affects how you see yourself and you feel very alone in a town where it’s predominantly white.
I identify as a Chicano, not really Latino. That’s someone born in this country to Mexican parents. They don’t teach it at school. About Latinx Heritage Month, it’s sad how we only get a month, there are 12 months in a year and even then it’s not talked about much. They never talked about it at school – I had to find out from TV or the internet – and when they do it’s very limited information.
Since I was a kid, I remember people telling me to speak English, and to go back to my country. Recently, as my dad was teaching me how to drive, we pulled over on the side on Solano Avenue. A lady comes by and asks us what we were doing – we said it was a public street and that we didn’t have to tell her. She wrote down my dad’s license plate and called the police, saying we vandalized the mailboxes. When we got home there were three police cars outside our house waiting to question us.
I think the police are assholes, I don’t trust them. And white old men scare me too because those are the main people who have targeted me. Police have always treated me differently from other people, whether it’s because I’m a person of color or a teenager. They stopped me and my dad in the car for a small thing and started asking personal questions that had nothing to do with the reason he stopped us.
As to how Covid-19 has affected my community, because my father works directly with clients everyday I get to witness how it is affecting the Latinx community. The majority of people are suffering with inadequate housing, inadequate testing services and inadequate systems for distance learning. It is so bad.
I have many dreams as a young person, but one of the main dreams I have is becoming a firefighter. To serve and protect my community. Sonoma will always be a special place in my life but as it is, it’s limiting because it doesn’t align with my dreams and goals.
I don’t see a reason to stay, other than my friends and family. I have an amazing and supportive family, and great supporting friends. I don’t feel so alone when I’m with them. They remind me everyday that it’s okay that I’m the way I am, and I don’t have to apologize to anyone for being me.
Jeremy Castillo, 16, is a student at Sonoma Valley High School. He has spoken on racial injustice at rallies in Sonoma Plaza and other venues.