By Isabeau Touchard, DKC Account Executive
My name is Isabeau Paolina Touchard. I say my name proudly — as it is a symbol of my mixed heritage and upbringing.
Growing up in a small, suburban town in New Jersey, I often found myself trying to cover up the tracks of my family’s migration. As ashamed as I am to admit it now, I was extremely embarrassed by my family’s struggle- both financially and linguistically. Ever since I can remember, I spent countless hours at doctor’s offices, banks, and more interpreting what my mother said in American Sign Language into spoken language. Now, she’s Latina, so you know there were times that I had to interpret the attitude- even if I was only 8 years old.
As I grew older, my family’s finances started to become a bit more stable. I finally got those Heelys I always wanted, my mom actually stopped to get ice cream after only one beg. I was even getting a little brother! But in the blink of an eye, that stability was swept right from under us. Sitting in the lawyer’s office, innocently — and maybe nervously — swinging my feet, I listened and watched one day as they told my parents that father needed to return to Venezuela. We were warned that there was only a 50/50 chance of my father’s return because, well, you know — politics. After deciding it was best not to live in fear any longer, my mom, newborn brother and I anxiously awaited my father’s open-ended return. This lasted for what seemed like the longest 14 months of my life.
At that time, the world just felt so cruel. Cruel to my Deaf mother who desperately tried to make ends meet but was faced with constant discrimination and ableism. Cruel to my father who was forced back into the world of poverty he fearlessly escaped from at the age of 19. And cruel to me, because I selfishly wanted to be just like my peers who didn’t spend their free time interpreting and deciphering never-ending court documents.
Despite all of that, my parents always saw the silver lining in things. They would never let me dwell on our struggles for more than a day before saying “focus on the good, not the bad.” And more importantly, they never once made me feel like reaching for the stars was impossible.
Like many in the Latinx community today, I’m the first person in my immediate family to graduate college, obtain a degree and enter a formal work setting (or the corporate world). And like our parents before us, we have all carved our own paths to get here. For me, “here” is the world of public relations and in this world, I must admit, there’s a lot more carving to do.
According to the 2020 U.S. census, the Latinx community accounted for 51.1% of the country’s population growth and overall, Latinx Americans are among the largest population groups in the U.S. When COVID-19 began to spread, many companies had to let go of their employees and Latinx women were let go at a disproportionate rate — the largest decrease in size of any demographic group, to be exact. Now, as we begin to transition into a sense of normalcy and businesses are beginning to boom again, many Latinx women still face another roadblock: pay. Latinx women earn $0.55 for every dollar that a white male earns. I know, you probably feel like you’ve heard this before. Maybe you’re thinking, “this can’t still be true,” and that’s okay because I’ve had the same thought. The reality is that this wage gap has hardly budged in over 30 years.
In fact, many disparities and injustices have not budged for hundreds of years. Emerging from our homes over one year later, we have all learned things about ourselves, our families, and most of all, our country. Now more than ever, it feels so evident that there is a lot of work to be done around the issues of racism, discrimination, and inequality — for all minority groups. And while this task may feel daunting, it can also be as simple as a genuine effort.
The younger me would never have imagined saying my name so boldly. The college version of me would never have imagined a company whose efforts go beyond posting “Happy Latinx Heritage Day” once a year exists. And the current me, a proud first-generation Latina/CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) publicist, is still hoping for more representation in my field of work. While there’s still a ways to go, I am so grateful to be here, writing this and so hopeful for the future, just as my ancestors were.