When most people dream of their life in college, they imagine going to class, enjoying parties and meeting friends they will keep for the rest of their lives. They never imagine that college is where they will face racism first hand.
That was how I felt until my college experience was halted by one simple word.
It felt like it came out of nowhere. One moment, I was enjoying my life in college and going through my classes, and the next, I felt like an outsider on campus. One simple word spewed from the mouth of a fellow Aggie had that much power over me.
Wetback – such a simple word. A misused word. A word with such horrible connotations. A word meant to imply that I am not a citizen of this great country. A word meant to cut me at my core.
I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d ever hear a fellow Aggie call me that. I never knew it would hurt so much.
For me, that was the first time I had ever faced racism. It was the first time I had ever had someone call me names based on the color of my skin. It was also the first time I began to feel isolated on campus.
Coming from San Antonio, I have always been surrounded by my culture. I have always felt welcomed by the people in my city and my schools. I have never been made to feel so different. When I chose Texas A&M for college, I believed I was coming into a similar environment where family was at the core. I knew there would be some culture shock, especially coming from San Antonio, but I thought I would find my second home here.
That one word changed it all. Suddenly, everywhere I went I felt like people were staring. I’d walk into class and notice how much of a minority I was. I felt like I didn’t belong here.
Everyday since that day, I have felt like I was on a different campus. I felt like I was looking in from the outside on a world I could not touch. The Aggie family that I was so looking forward to becoming a part of felt untouchable and unattainable.
Some would say I am being dramatic and that things like this don’t happen on our campus. But recent events prove that untrue. Racism does exist on college campuses, and everyone reacts differently. For me, I cried; I called my grandma and cried some more, and then I put on a brave face and continued on with my life. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or that I’ve forgotten it. Like I said, everyday since that day has been different. I am not the same person I was then. I’m more cautious on campus. I’m more wary and paranoid, like at any minute someone could come out and hurt me more.
And I know other minorities on campus who have felt the same sting of discrimination. That second look we get when we walk into a room, that door that was held open for her but not us. The other derogatory terms that are thrown around in conversations so flippantly. Sometimes racism is so small you barely recognize it, but it’s there, and it should be stopped.
Some people may ask why I stayed here at Texas A&M when I felt like such an outsider. I chose to stay because I love this school. I am receiving an excellent education that will prepare me to help build a future where my kids and grandkids won’t have to experience things like this. I am not quitting just because of one person. I am doing what I set out to do.
Had I quit then, I never would have joined Her Campus. I never would have gotten the opportunity to share my story with you now. And I feel like this is an important story to share because in today’s world incidents like this are happening more frequently. My story is just one example of a growing problem on college campuses; a problem that needs to be addressed now before it gets worse.