“We can’t talk, and connect with each other because we are different,” she said after two months of limited communication with me. I stared back confused and shocked. Sure, we were from different worlds, she was a white missionary kid of a family ministering internationally and I was a Brown girl, born and raised in West Los Angeles of Mexican and Honduran parents. However, despite these differences, being placed in the same dorm-room in a little Orange County city had to give us some sort of precedent for conversation and connection, especially as first time roommates! At least that is what my collective mind thought at the time. Yet my invitation to racially reconcile with my white roommate was dismissed after hearing her rejection and hearing it evidently with her divisive words.
My first semester of college was painful because of this experience. It was a semester of a quiet and lonely living situation. A semester of failed attempts at befriending a white dorm-room stranger. A semester of wondering why I was not accepted, seen, or worth enough to speak to.
The only time I can recall her speaking to me, was to remind me when it was my turn to clean the bathroom.
As you can tell, this was a crappy situation, even more so at a professing Christian university in Southern California. So why am I sharing this? Well although I had much better years to live out in college after this I feel the need to :
1. To validate my initial experience in college &
2. Tell the story of most BIPOC students in higher education who face microaggression, racism and discrimination in subtle or large forms, especially when we do not assimilate to dominant campus culture
As a freshman Latina, my voice was not heard.
It was not validated by the Residence Life policy when I attempted to move out in the middle of my first semester due to this negative experience. I cannot help but think that my voice must have been confused with that of a homesick student or ‘girl drama’. I am here to tell my 18 year old self that this was not the case. What I experienced was something more than the melodrama narrative my white college might have tried to pose, it was prejudice I faced for looking and speaking ‘differently’ in my own room.
Although my ex roommate never verbally stated she disliked Latinx people, her actions and rhetoric demonstrated microaggression and bias towards my ethnic and cultural identity. How? Because the dichotomy of her language was so prevalent, it was a language of ‘you versus me’ and sometimes no language at all leading to a complete disregard of my person-hood present in the room.
To my white Christian brothers and sisters, you cannot proclaim yourself as anti-racist when you isolate and disregard Brown people in front of you.
Some of my fellow white classmates were quick to sign up for Latin American missions trips all while ignoring their own Brown classmates, roommates, and brothers and sisters in Christ. I always found that logic so weird. Soon I realized that their gospel was selective, individual, and Instagramable.
I guess we were different in this sense but not because we could not talk to each other, it was because you never took the time to hear our voice.