I am not here to shower you with “social justice warrior” rantings.
I am not here to give you a history lesson on slavery or colonization.
Nor am I here to tell you your political views are wrong.
I am here to tell you what it feels like to be a student of color, and to walk to class across the words “#ALLLIVESMATTER” and “TRUMP2016” chalked onto the sidewalk.
I attend a school that is 77% white, 4% African American, 7% Hispanic, 0% Native American, 3% Asian, and 5% “Unknown.” This just so happens to be the demographics of my school and is no way a reflection of the academic capabilities of our students and professors, or our overall standing as an academic institution.
Unfortunately, it can be a reflection of the lack of safe spaces for minority students. Keep in mind that being a “minority” isn’t based on color. It is based on what religion you practice, what sexual orientation you identify with, and so on. My boyfriend is a minority; he is half white and half Japanese. Being half white doesn’t make him any less of a minority, any less of an “Unknown” statistic.
I’ll tell you why being a student of color is scary. No, there aren’t people walking around in KKK uniforms or running around with the Confederate flag. But there’s this sea of white people, and it’s intimidating when you walk to class. It makes you feel so different. I know it’s hard to understand when you’re white; feeling like a fish out of water because of the color of your skin – I mean no one’s pointing it out. But still, it’s there. It’s like when everyone knows a secret about you, but everyone’s pretending it doesn’t exist or that they don’t know so they can avoid the awkwardness. Imagine that.
It’s hard because if you were to sit in a sociology class where you and two other kids are the only minorities, you’re scared to say how you feel about racism or feminism, because of the dirty looks the white kids, the straight kids, the men, will dart at you. It’s awful because they’ll mutter slurs with their friends and joke about how you smell like curry, how your black friend is stinky, how your Asian friend likes to eat dogs, how they want to “watch” your lesbian friend. It’s scary because they’ll laugh and say, “Yeah man, it’s wrong. But it’s funny.”
I’ll tell you why Trump supporters are scary when you’re a student of color. Yes, people will say his economic policies are great and that he’s not like other politicians, that he’s not afraid to say what he thinks, that he ignores political correctness. Friends, political correctness exists to keep people safe. If we didn’t have political correctness, people could be accused of all sorts of things simply because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation. So when Trump scares you into thinking all Muslims are terrorists and Mexicans are rapists that are stealing our jobs, he is also scaring the Muslims into being unable to go to the grocery store, due to their worry that people will call them “terrorists”. He is scaring Mexicans into being unable to speak Spanish with their families, due to their worry that people will shout at them to “go back to their country.” Minorities cannot live their lives without being afraid.
If you’re a Trump supporter, you know that he’s said some harsh shit about minorities. People are getting inspired by this. They’re getting guts. So imagine a Trump presidency, from a minority’s perspective. People will get away with saying and doing harm to minorities with the encouragement of their President. Is that fair? You’re so intimidated when black people embrace their race and stand up for themselves through “#BlackLivesMatter” – a movement that isn’t doing anything but PREVENTING harm against a certain demographic – but you think it’s fair to encourage a world where only you matter, a movement that will only encourage harm and dangerous rhetoric towards minorities.
So it is confusing to me when you write “Trump 2016” and “ALL LIVES MATTER” on the sidewalks of my campus. If all lives matter, why don’t you care about the effect Trump’s campaign is having on minorities? If all lives matter, why do you believe that minorities can’t live in harmony? If all lives matter, why do you think you can obtain job security with a Trump candidacy, while people of color who work TRIPLY as hard as you, get thrown out of this country? Unauthorized immigrants pay $11.8 billion in taxes, as of 2012. What would your dear America do without that $11.8 billion dollars?
Freedom of speech is important. I say that as an American citizen. But I shouldn’t be afraid to be name-called, threatened, and incorrectly labeled just because of my skin color. I say that as an Indian woman. And, I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my education for your comfort. I say that as a student of color.
Photograph taken by Igor Mukhin.