Heritage should be embraced

Jul 192005
Authors: Jennae Mendoza

We've all glanced through stacks of college brochures showing the white, Asian and black kid laughing under a shaded tree while two specks in the background chuck a football and a deer scampers off into the wilderness. Almost every campus looks diversified and fun. Yet, for the small percentage of students attending CSU, which give "diversity" its name, there are always a few surprises-and not all of them are fun.

Coming from a small town, racism wasn't a problem. Sitting beside the same kid since kindergarten didn't allow us see them as the Black or Hispanic kid. They were always the person we went snowboarding with or the witty one that made us laugh.

Yet as quickly as I cleaned out my high school locker, this life was erased. Since college, for the first time in my life, I've had to view myself as "separate" and have been placed in the category many times as "those people" or not so trusted because I'm only "half" white. This all seemed pretty strange to me at first. I had never been proud of my race or ashamed of it- I had simply been ignorant and indifferent about it.

I had been ignorant about a lot of things before college. Finding out your buddy is gay after you've befriended him for a year makes it seem ridiculous you would judge them for it, and it's impossible to see your black friend who grew up in an east coast city as simply an "urban black kid". It seems odd now when one person claims their religion is the most powerful, or their nationality is the most dominant.

Though college doesn't completely alter your perceptions, it does make people more conscious of others perceptions. Despite the racism I've experienced in Fort Collins, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and not carry baggage with me. I like for people to see who I am first and my abilities before they're judging me.

For the incoming freshman, there are campus clubs like El Centro and Black Student Services where you can exercise your abilities here and make your welcome at CSU much easier. Though it may sound cheesy, by learning about your culture, and your family history, it makes you a stronger person.

After hearing "you'll never succeed because you're a minority," I pictured my Grandpa, who refused to walk through the back door of his school, making it accessible to all. Or my Grandma, a beautiful, classy lady who came from one of the happiest families with very driven, intelligent children. I've realized that by ridiculing my race, these people are also denouncing my family and everything they've accomplished.

We are all looking for our winning shot in life-something to define us. The ones who haven't found that sometimes stand behind the obviousness of their majority race. To the few at CSU who don't make up the majority, somehow that little college brochure has been a gateway to taking a huge leap in your success.

Believe me, I know whatever discrimination you walk into is much better than being ignorant of it. And whatever price you have to pay for education is less expensive than the price of ignorance.

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