#maip2019 | I’m White and Hispanic - Where is My Place in Multiculturalism?
I am half Colombian and half Caucasian. I am white-passing. I have never been sure of my place in the conversation surrounding multiculturalism. On one hand, I know I am Hispanic. My grandmother, who lived with me my entire life, never spoke a word of English. I grew up around loud conversation, dancing in the kitchen, and practically learned Spanish through telenovelas. Arroz con Coco was my favorite dish, no questions asked. But I grew up in a very small Texas town where almost everyone was white and I fit in. I have never experienced racism or been on the receiving end of micro-aggression. I recognized my white privilege, but could I still claim my Hispanic roots? I would tell my classmates I spoke Spanish and they wouldn’t believe me. The most frequent response I’d get was, “But you’re not Mexican…are you?”, to which I would respond with an attempt to explain the difference between skin color and ethnicity, but the conversation would often end there, with little interest coming from the other party. When I finally had the chance to visit Colombia at the age of 15, things began to click. I realized I really was different than my caucasian friends. I began to understand my abuela and mom better. I began to understand myself better. A renewed sense of pride for my Colombian roots emerged and I became grateful for that side of me. So when the opportunity of MAIP came to be, I was ready to apply and meet other people who saw multiculturalism with the same sense of importance as me. And then I got to MAIP. For probably the first time in my life, I was the person in the room whose skin color didn’t “fit in”. I became self-conscious, wondering if I really deserved to be here. And then my wonderful roommate, Eunie, who spent some of her time growing up in New Jersey and some of it in Korea, asked me about my background. We talked about what it was like for me growing up and what it was like for her. She shared the story of the first time she experience racism and I shared my heartbreak for her. We listened to one another and she validated my place in this program. She helped me see that there is so much more to our experiences than the color of our skin. Again, I recognize my white privilege and the unfair disadvantage I have in this world. I’ll never truly know what it’s like to be anyone outside of who I am. But I have chosen to take who I am and best person I can be. Being in MAIP, I have had many conversations with friends about their experiences in this world, and it has further widened my eyes. I want to work in advertising because I have a passion for representation. I may see representation of my whiteness on screen, but I hardly see representations of real, Colombian woman. Seldom do we see true representation of POC in media. And without proper representation, perceptions will never change. I want to take everything I’ve learned, combine it with the love I have for people, and push for change so that we may change the way we see each other. In order for the conversation to change, it starts from within. My hope for this industry is that the days of old, white men having the final say are soon behind us. With initiatives like MAIP, I hope we get people in rooms who will create work that actually represents the world we live in today, not the imaginary one the media has been portraying all throughout history. Advertising won’t solve this issue completely, but it’s the industry I’ve chosen, and hey, it’s not a bad start.
#maip2019 | Big Spaceship - Empathy at It’s Core
This summer, my fellow maipers and I were fortunate enough be invited to a panel at Big Spaceship, where employees imparted some “post-internship” wisdom on us. The advice they gave us was great, but something else really stood out to me. Big Spaceship’s CEO, Michael Lebowitz, was the person to introduce the panel. And not only was here there at the beginning, but he stayed throughout the entire panel and hours after it was over to talk with some of us. This is clearly a busy man - the boss of a top ad agency, a husband and a father - but he chose to take time out of his evening to talk to aspiring advertisers like us. I was nothing short of amazed. Yes, Michael talked with us about advertising some, but most of our conversation revolved around the culture at Big Spaceship and what it means to him. He said “taking care of each other” is one of the company’s core values and was made public on their website a few years back. I just love that they put that out there for the world to see, because that means they actually have to live up to it. But by seeing how open and honest the employees were on the panel, as well as Michael’s dedication to the company by walking the walk and creating an atmosphere that allows others to be comfortable as they are, I see exactly how Big Spaceship lives up to that core value. Our visit to Big Spaceship inspired me. It helped me to see that there are some companies with great leadership out there, and those are the companies I want to work for.