Being white always seems to be better. It's supposed to be prettier, elegant, intelligent, and ideal. You never want to be too tan because then you're not as appealing. Don't stay out in the sun too long because you don't want to get too dark. Growing up in an Latino family, I was told by relatives that I have to 'mejorar la raza'. It means I have to better my race.

I was young, naïve and I didn't understand what that meant. I thought of it as a joke, a form of teasing but still playful. Little did I know that what I was being told would follow me throughout my life. It followed me in who I thought was attractive and what I thought I wanted.

encouragement and still are in many families around the world.

To many Latino families, bettering our race means marrying and baring the children of Caucasian Americans or any type of white. Anything, but please, not another ñaño (Ecuadorean male) or not someone too dark. It was normal, and normal for many of us.

This expression says so much more than it actually means. It's a form of racism, and it's degrading to ourselves and our culture. We're purposefully trying to forget where our roots lie. I wanted to erase them because I didn't want to accept who I really was because I was ashamed.

My ancestors are the native or indigenous people of Ecuador. By buying into this mentality, I would be disregarding the hard labor and mental battle everyone who came before me had to go through. They experienced a form of oppression themselves. People were looked down upon for living in the countryside and dressing in traditional clothing. They were called stupid and uneducated. They were 'under-developed'.

It might be an exaggeration for some, but I think that's the reality of what 'mejorando la raza' means.

How does being with someone white make me better? We're focused so much on the exterior we forget how much more important the interior is. No one should ever feel ashamed of their culture. Without our ancestors battling through oppression, we wouldn't be here today.

It's time we stop perpetuating the notion that in order to succeed or appear successful is to be with someone who's white. The Latino culture needs to stop treating white so highly and using color to put others on pedestals.

We deserve respect too and if we can't give it to ourselves, how can anyone else?

We, the children of the sun, have been kissed and coated with warmth. Some a little more, some a little less. Nevertheless, we are united one way or another.

Better yourself by learning about the history of your roots, who oppressed you and why. Never forgot that we are here because someone else fought for us to live today.

We should continue the fight and stop oppression from spreading within our own culture and in others too.