I came from Peru with a completely different perspective of my race and social class. Back home I was used to being part of the dominant majority, as my skin color was considered “white” to most, compare to the skin color of the Peruvian indigenous population. Both of my last names gave me an inherited privilege and the clothes I wore, where I lived, and where I went to school made me part of the dominant class. When I arrived at Trinity, and through my first weeks attending the Color & Money seminar, I realized that I quickly transitioned from the dominant class and race to a minority. The Color & Money seminar not only made me much more aware about race and social class, but it also helped to walk through the path of discovering the new connotations that my race had at Trinity.
As I read Tatum’s book I could identify myself with the racial identity development theory, and could see how I was going through each of those stages. I could see my self-going through the encounter stage, as I learned to identify my self as part of the Hispanic minority, and yet, not feel part of the Hispanic community on campus. Most of the Hispanic community at Trinity is going through their own identity process, where they are trying to figure out what being a Latino means, but I have already figured that out. Being Hispanic is part of my personality, is rooted into my soul, and because I have lived my whole life in a South American country, surrounded by the Hispanic culture, I know that being Hispanic is much more than J.Lo, reggeton music and speaking Spanish. In fact, my live back home was part of an Americanized bubble that prevented me from having the kind of Hispanic experience that makes you want to listen to Celia Cruz every day, 24/7. This seminar made me realize that although I cannot identify my self with them, I am still haunted by the stereotypes that the Hispanic community has. Through the interviews performed, I realized that most of the interactions at Trinity are determined by first impressions, which are usually highly influenced by the stereotype and pre-concepts of a certain race or social class. It was not until I participated in this seminar that I realized all the privileges I had back home, and how very intertwined they were with the “white American culture”.
The different material offered to us in class made me more conscious about the implications that race and social class have in America. As we read Steven’s book, I realized that education is highly linked with social class, which is also linked to race. Coming from Peru, I thought that America, “the land of opportunities”, lived up to its nickname. However, I came to realize, that while meritocracy is indeed applied, it takes much more effort and merit for minority students to triumph academically and in every aspect of life in general than it takes to white people. It was not until the role was inverted and I was part of the minority group that I came to understand that all the privileges that I had back home, were entailed with my race and social class. With the readings that we had assigned in this seminar I understood that race and social class are highly linked, and that therefore, peer interactions are based on social class as much as they are on race.
As Abreu explained in his letter, racism is present on campus, and not necessarily or exclusively as an attack among students, but as the reaction towards the people from Hartford. From the racially constructed term, locals, to racist acts from campus security officials, Trinity is still displaying racism through its corridors. However, even the racist acts are still encapsulated to stereotypes. Abreu explain and asks for a change in the mentality of people. He says “ignorance” is what drives people to commit racial acts. After being part of this seminar, I strongly agree with him. I believe that while students may come with these pre-conceptions from home, there is no indication that they cannot change them with education at school. I believe that this school has the potential to broaden students’ horizons, in regards with racial matters; that it has the capacity to disregards the stereotypes that there are in society. However, I do not agree with promoting more cross-cultural, diverse events is the solution, but rather having more seminars like Color & Money, which encourage open dialogue about racial matters is. I believe that peaceful, subtle actions should be taken to change this situation, instead of aggressive, forced actions like “diversity events”.
After taking part of this seminar, and after experiencing being part of the minority group, my views on race and social class has changed radically. I now believe that merit should be the main way of progressing both socially and economically, and that race should not cluster people in a specific context or be a barrier that prevents people to progress. I have also come to understand that every person is going through their own racial identity development process, and that each person has its own insecurities, advantages and disadvantages that come with their race and social class. Therefore, I have learned to be very delicate and accurate when talking about race and social class to avoid offending anyone. Finally, this seminar has taught me that racial and socio-economic differences are not reason to separate people and that the only way to progress into a race-blind, social-class-blind society, is through education.