More Than A Stereotype

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More Than A Stereotype

The excitement of being a “college kid” started the day I found out I was a Questbridge Scholar. When I found out I’d be attending a school that costs a quarter of a million dollars to attend over four years, I cried. Never in a million years did I think I’d attend a nationally renowned school whose architecture resembles Hogwarts and tuition fee for one year is enough for four years of college back home. I finally had been presented the opportunity to make something of myself and see the world from a different perspective. The only problem is that the looking glass used here is shattered. Only what is wanted to be seen is seen. The world around me changes completely every time I step on new soil. As a non New Englander, low income minority student, adjusting to college life has been a much bigger struggle than I had ever imagined.  The excitement of being a “college kid” faded within a week of actually stepping on campus. Luckily, it has turned into a learning experience, an empowering experience, rather than a hinderance through my participation in Jack Dougherty’s Color and Money, Race and Social Class seminar. I’ve had my eyes opened to how big of a role racism and classism still play within society; The society that rules the lives of the students of Trinity College.

Everything begins on the Long Walk. My first pass down the path excluded the return of hello’s and smiles and I tried to figure out why it continuously happened. At first I assumed that person was having a really bad day. However, that seemed less likely once I realized everyone made the same face when I passed. My next idea was that it’s a northern thing not to naturally be friendly to people. I figured it was just a lack of the southern hospitality that I miss so much. But that idea was flushed when I saw a difference in the response I was given. There was a time when a white student was walking in front of me and, walking towards me was a different white student. When the two met each other’s gaze a smile and wave were exchanged, but when eye contact was made with me, the student’s head went up and away, as if Superman was flying by. Immediately after the student was out of my peripheral vision, I turned around to see the student look straight forward again. This straining of the neck is at times supplemented with fake texting or completely looking down just to avoid eye contact. No matter which avoidance method is chosen, it happens repeatedly, day in and day out. With closed minds comes closed eyes, but it takes the latter to solidify the existence of  the first.

I’ve realized that many students here are extremely opinionated and stick to their opinions without faltering. In  a normal situation, I’d appreciate that and commend their strong willedness, but these opinions are painful to hear because they’re about my race. For example, a term that is extremely loaded and just tossed around on campus is “local”. This term is used as a noun and usually accompanied by “Hartford”, which is used as an adjective. Whenever someone refers to a “Hartford local” they mean an african american or hispanic person who appears to be of a lower class and thus from right outside of campus. This is true because the only time you hear about a local is if it’s a “minority thing”. For example, a freshman posted on the Facebook page that she’d lost her speakers and the first comment was “just saw a hartford local selling the exact same speakers on broad st. hope I could help!”. The comments continued and a back and forth banter ensued until a Mexican-American student , Allen Rios, stepped in and pointed out the fact that what they were saying only “worsens the discrimination problem we have on campus”. The previous commenters decided to verbally attack Allen through vicious comments and eventually told the student “I’d rather not get notifications from you so you can stop commenting please…”. That’s when Allen reached out for help and sent me a text saying “look at the ignorance on the freshman page”, so I logged on and read through it all. They claimed to be just joking, so I decided to show them just how funny they weren’t. I reminded them that a joke is something that “provokes laughter; a witticism”. However, what they’d said was a slur stemmed from ignorance. That’s when the attack turned to me. Don’t you love how much power people really do have behind a keyboard? The power is evident because the day after this occurred, Allen ran into one of the commenters, who immediately looked away once eye contact was made. Moral of the story: People don’t listen. Not because they can’t, but because they choose not to.

It hurts my heart to know that the opportunity for me to further my education at such a great school has come with the burden of rejection, due to who I am. I cannot control my skin color, the amount of money my mom makes, or the state I’m from, yet those are my defining characteristics. I am not one to sit back and let anyone trample all over me, or the people I’m forced to represent considering I’m one of few black students on campus. As a collective, the minorities on campus have begun to cower down and let whatever is said be said because if we speak up, we’re told to shut up. However, I’m not afraid to make myself heard, to say the things people don’t want to hear, to be the voice for a group that is constantly shot down. If you decide to put in your headphones and turn up your music so that all you hear are your own opinions, fine, I’ll just keep talking until you take the headphones out. See, it wasn’t until I sat through each discussion and really listened to my classmates that I saw the sheltered, close-minded, world this campus grew up in. It’s not their fault, however I want to make sure they don’t leave this place as ignorant as they came in. The easiest way for me to do that is tell them my story and show them what it’s like to walk a day in my shoes. I’m more than people expect me to be. I’m more than a stereotype.