José Olivarez’s Talk on Race, Identity and Gender
José Olivarez discusses his family, music and poetry, and race and identity. As a child of immigrant parents, the poet describes himself as white-presenting and an outsider to white culture. He says, “as a Mexican family, my family always had more in common with black families” (“José Olivarez”). The poet argues that students of color do not get the same opportunities as white youth. Olivarez started writing poems to express his views in a way that could reach others. His experience at college showed him the difficulties people of color faced and the complex structure of race and identity. He also speaks a lot about his self-identity, masculinity, and music’s role in people’s lives.
José Olivarez’s talk reflects the lives of many people of color living in countries with diverse populations. It is directly related to the issues of race and privilege that white individuals have in most spheres of life. His description of the school system and the resources that students of color often do not get in life is highly relevant to schools in the United States. Many public schools do not have enough funding, and such discrepancy between educational organizations depends on the neighborhoods where they are placed.
The talk provided me with an interesting viewpoint of racism currently present in the world. On the one hand, Olivarez sees himself as a person of color – his Mexican identity influences his art and view of the world. On the other hand, the poet does not deny that people perceive him differently due to his lighter skin. It is essential to recognize that race cannot be transparently defined, and each detail of one’s life immensely influences what one does and thinks. I would highly recommend this talk and Olivarez’s work to others to see a unique perspective on art and creativity.
Overall, the talk by José Olivarez explores many themes, including race, identity, disparities between different communities, masculinity, and more. The poet’s recollection of his experiences is likely familiar to many people of color living as immigrants or children of immigrants in countries with predominantly white cultures. Olivarez speaks about the role of music and poetry, especially hip-hop, in forming people’s identity. Olivarez’s account is an important addition to the sea of voices talking about discrimination.
“José Olivarez.” Rhymes and Reasons, 2014.