Parental attitudes towards substance use impact teens

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The Metlife foundation recently sponsored and released a study about teen’s drug and alcohol abuse patterns.  The key finding in this study is that Hispanic teens are forty precent (40%) more likely to abuse drugs/alcohol than their Caucasian and Black peers.  The study attributed two (2) things to this increased likelihood: 1) Hispanic teens are less afraid of drugs than their peers; and, 2) Hispanic parents are less likely to monitor their teens; activities than other parents.  The study goes on to say that its findings place a heavy burden on Hispanic parents to become more engaged with their kids and provides some links aimed at Hispanics about drugs/alcohol.

Now, whether or not this study is right, I think it only makes sense to understand the culture of all teens.  Really, all teens tend towards being heavily influenced by their friends.  Really, belonging is  such a strong need during adolescence…

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I am Chicano

in the barrio, we called ourselves, Chicanos. I always believed that was what I was: A Chicano kid. I had no idea growing up that there isn’t any real such thing as a Chicano. I came to learn that in all reality, any ethnic label is more about power and control than it is about biology. Still, it took me years to understand that the word Chicano is about creating an identity for a displaced group of people who don’t belong, completely, to any nation. Overnight, a huge swath of land shifted from one nation to another and there was no thought or compassion given to those people whose roots were deep within that land.

And so, many members of this group formed an identity. They formed this collective through a blend of Indio and Hispano blood. They researched Aztec mythology and history and formed a whole new ethnicity. This group of displaced people called themselves: Chicanos. They claimed for themselves a homeland and called it, “Aztlan.” These original Chicanos drew a boundary around New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and California and claimed that from this swath of land the original Chicanos emerged. They called this land, “Aztlan.”

This idea of Aztlan being a homeland, much like Eden, was co-opted from Aztec mythology. To the Aztecs, Aztlan was the “place of white herons,” from which they themselves emerged.   So, the Chicano nation took the Aztec homeland and gave it a literal location in the swath of land that the U.S. was deeded via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. But, in reality, Aztlan existed in Chicano literature and never rose to the real nation as envisioned within the foundational documents that created the Chicano consciousness: El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan and Yo Soy Joaquin. Both docs called for a Chicano uprising that would establish Aztlan as the nation of Chicanos. The documents were both poetic and revolutionary and attempted to create a consciousness as was created from the Civil Rights Movement. However, the word itself was polarizing and to this day there is no single way to identify Spanish speaking people, native to the U.S. The Chicano Movement failed in its stated objectives.

Of course, I didn’t learn anything about the politics and history of the Chicano Movement until long after I moved away from my barrio.            Still, I do not believe that us kids in the barrio were wrong to identify as, “chicanos.” We were alike and we were outsiders and seeing ourselves as something other than poor and marginalized gave us a place in the world. The difficult thing, for me, was that I came to understand that being Chicano meant being a part of something that had run its political course long before we joined in. Regardless, I loved Chicano literature; I loved that it mixed Spanish and English and spoke of things I felt deep inside but couldn’t name. I love the word, “aztlan,” and what it represents, both to the Chicano movement and to me, personally.

Parental attitudes towards substance use impact teens

The Metlife foundation recently sponsored and released a study about teen’s drug and alcohol abuse patterns.  The key finding in this study is that Hispanic teens are forty precent (40%) more likely to abuse drugs/alcohol than their Caucasian and Black peers.  The study attributed two (2) things to this increased likelihood: 1) Hispanic teens are less afraid of drugs than their peers; and, 2) Hispanic parents are less likely to monitor their teens; activities than other parents.  The study goes on to say that its findings place a heavy burden on Hispanic parents to become more engaged with their kids and provides some links aimed at Hispanics about drugs/alcohol.

Now, whether or not this study is right, I think it only makes sense to understand the culture of all teens.  Really, all teens tend towards being heavily influenced by their friends.  Really, belonging is  such a strong need during adolescence that it only makes sense that all parents should be aware of the potential of peer influence and understand their teen’s behavior.  However, to make an implication that Hispanic parents need to do a better job than Caucasian or Black parents almost suggests that Hispanics aren’t very good parents.  This is total crap to me because, as a Hispanic parent of a teen, I think it’s just as important for me to be engaged with my son as it is for a buddy of mine, who’s a Caucasian parent of a teen.  We’re all in this thing together and I’m not convinced of the hidden blame with the study’s findings.

Really, it’s up to everyone to eradicate the scourge of drug and alcohol abuse. Period.  While the parent-teen relationship is critical (regardless of race), almost as important is the teacher-teen relationship, the counselor-teen relationship, the Uncle-teen relationship, etc.   We ALL need to monitor teens’ behaviors as adults.  We ALL need to watch for changes in friends, clothes, and music preferences (among other changes in behaviors).  But first, ALL ADULTS need to understand that we are in fact role models and we should seek our own health such that we can then model that health for our teens.  To suggest than any one group is more responsible for teen development than any other group is to almost provide a veil to mask everyone’s responsibility.

I am my son’s keeper.  I pray and hope that I set him on a good and strong path.  But, I also hope that ALL parents, regardless of race, also want the best for their kids.  Parenting should be race-neutral.  We should all want the best for teens, as in the Whitney Houston once sang, they are in fact our future.  We should help shape that future to the best of our abilities.

The article and study can be found here: Metlife Study.

What kind of Hispanic am I anyway?

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If you’re squeamish about ethnic/cultural issues: Do not continue reading!

Disclaimers out of the way, I am now having a severe identity crisis.  I’ve always believed and cherished my cultural identity, but a recent trip to a grocery store has made me question the very fabric of space and time.  I needed tomato sauce and had no idea where to find it.  A store worker was loading shelves with various sundries when I approached him with my query, “Where in the heck is tomato sauce?”

He looked at me and then thought about it for a minute.  “Check Aisle 14,” he said and returned to his stocking duties.  When I arrived at Aisle 14, I looked up at the aisle marker and learned that I was, apparently, in the appropriate section.  The sign was marked, “Authentic Hispanic,” on one side and, “Mainstream Hispanic” on the other.  I was curious as to what items were on what side so I looked around.

I learned that an Authentic Hispanic uses items like, Mayonesa and candles painted with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

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I also learned that a Mainstream Hispanic uses things like pickled carrots and canned green chiles.

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The problem for me is that I’ve never in my entire life bought, Mayonesa, Our Lady of Guadalupe candles, pickled carrots, or canned green chiles.  Does that mean that I’m neither a Mainstream Hispanic nor an Authentic Hispanic?  The store worker who directed me to Aisle 14 seemed to think I belonged in Aisle 14; why didn’t I find the dang tomato sauce?

I looked more closely within the Mainstream Hispanic side of Aisle 14 and sure enough, I found tomato sauce.  But, curiosity got the better of me (as it usually does) and I went to the aisle labeled, “Canned Goods,” and lo and behold, I found tomato sauce there, too!  Imagine my shock.  There was an item than Mainstream Hispanics use in an aisle not labeled or indicated for Mainstream Hispanics.  My curiosity carried me towards the aisle labeled, “Condiments.”  I almost passed out from shock when I say a large jar of Mayonnaise.  Does that mean I should go back to Aisle 14 to get Mayonesa, or would it be ok if I bought Mayonnaise?

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I left the grocery store without tomato sauce.  When I first walked into the grocery store, I figured I’d leave with the tomato sauce I needed.  Instead, I walked out of the grocery store mired in an identity crisis…according to the census bureau, I’m Hispanic, but my during my stroll through the store, I learned that I am a man without a grocery store aisle of his own.  I’m neither a Mainstream Hispanic nor an Authentic Hispanic.

Oh well, I’ve never been much for labels.  I can’t stand words like “Addict” or “Alcoholic” used to describe people I care about.  So, I guess it’s for the best that the only label I’ll accept is “Human.” Even then, though, I’m not so sure…

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