Marginalized identities on campus

“Hate has no home here” is little more than a symbolic gesture to our university, no matter how many languages you write it in.

Hate has no home here, a bold claim by our university. But hate has always had a home in the halls of power, and our university is no different. They say you are safe here, that your diversity is valued. But at every step, you are made to fight injustice and demand to be recognized as a whole person. 

When the professor tells you that Puerto Ricans should be happy to be American citizens when the archipiélago was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. At least there is a spotlight on you now, she will say. A spotlight on your devastation and the white men who are invading your land once again to “save” it. 

She shifts my narrative of power and resilience and creates herself as the savior. The white American professor asserting to her Caribbean student the great power of America and how they will save your peoples from the destruction that they have created with their desecration of land and resources. With their disregard for the screams of the earth and their tempting of fate by exacerbating climate change.

She speaks of their arrival, of their helping hands and aid, but does not admit that once they feel they have given enough they will leave. Does not speak to the fact that once they leave so does that light they so graciously cast upon you. 

Three years later the archipiélago is still in ruin, and recent earthquakes have only added to the chaos …  with the exception of the tourist Hotspots. Because the thing about a tourist economy is that your land is not for you …  but for the white man who comes to play. The white man who wants to go somewhere “tropical,” who wants to relax and feel the slow pace of “island living.” Not ever seeing the people or their struggle. Not realizing or caring that his glass is filled with the tears of the people mourning their independence. 

But that is of no concern to the white American professor, her only concern lies in keeping a tight grip on the narrative that has been fed to us, and to continue to swallow it whole. 

When you challenge the microaggressions of your peer and now they are directed at you, suddenly you have become the symbol of all the hate that has corroded their mind. Suddenly you are made to take up arms on behalf of all of the marginalized identities you hold, and the members of those communities. 

The brown woman who dared speak her mind, who dared to challenge the white man as the venom of his ignorance dripped from the words tumbling out of his mouth. And without a true rebuttal he simply responds “I know that I am smarter than you,” a half-cocked smile chiseled into place by anger. 

So you look him dead in the eye and demand to know how. You dare him to say the words. But he falters, so unused to being challenged, and he can form no response. Simply reassuring you of what he knows, of what society has taught him. That he is the bearer of knowledge, wisdom and truth. And surely no woman could take that from him. 

The person of color who attempts to approach a hateful comment with compassion. With the understanding that we come from very different lived experiences, and attempts to give you insight into theirs. 

But instead, you are met with resistance. A doubling down on a hateful narrative founded in ignorance. An insistence on the equality in this country that you have never had the privilege of experiencing. 

They come to you with unfounded statistics and racist talking points meant to silence you. Boldly claiming that if you felt oppressed you ought to just “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” And this is the biggest joke of them all.

As though that isn’t why you’re here. In the same university as her. As though your father didn’t have to do exactly that after coming to the states in order to afford you this opportunity. As though that isn’t exactly the goddamn problem with the system in place. No one should have to pull themselves up from nothing. But she doesn’t see that, she has learned to view a challenge to the system as a challenge to her very existence. Privilege is a bitch like that. 

When the university allows Customs and Border Protection to register for your career fair. More concerned with their funding than with the lives and safety of our undocumented students. So we rise up in solidarity and speak out against this injustice, but the university responds with little more than excuses. Writing off the concerns of the students. Touting their half-baked plans as accomplishments and acting astonished by our contempt.

Eventually we caused enough trouble and they were no longer allowed to attend. But the hollow words of the university still ring in the ears of many, and any semblance of trust in the university to protect our marginalized students was torn to pieces.

So when I see “Hate has no home here” plastered all over campus, I can’t help but feel a burning in my chest. I can’t help but be reminded of every single time that hate not only had a home here but thrived here.