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Owning Your Racism: How Dr.Tarvin Welcomes Growth

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

As a young person of color, I have been teaching myself not to be an “angry black girl.” I’ve almost mastered the art of not batting an eye at racism. I have mastered the art of laughing at racially-charged comments. I’ve molded myself to fit into stereotypes to kill some tension for an easy laugh. I’ve allowed friends and boyfriends to say racial slurs in hopes of not seeming “uptight” or “boring.” I make sure not to participate too much in conversations centered around racial injustice, in fear that everyone else will label me as “sensitive.”

These are unspoken rules in the lives of countless young women of color. If you practice these things long enough, the racism surrounding you almost doesn’t bother you … right?

I thought so until I came to A&M and sat in Dr.Tarvin’s lecture.

It’s my first semester in Aggieland. I’m sitting in COMM 101 in the second row. The lights are dimmed and Yellow by Coldplay is playing. I know he is telling this story to over 200 students, but for about an hour, I swear he is talking to me. He tells me a story of uncovering some internalized racism he held.

His story begins in a setting like mine: He’s taking an Intercultural Communication course and they’re discussing racism. His professor asked for anyone who is racist to raise their hands, and Dr.Tarvin accidentally let his jump up– not anticipating that question. Of course, no one believes they’re racist, so his initial reaction was one of regret. Then, his professor pushes him about possibly being a racist, and eventually, Dr.Tarvin opens up about some prejudices he held about Mexicans.

And what does that professor do with that information? Well, he sends him to Mexico.

“I never thought I was racist in the moment. Upon reflection, I realized my beliefs stemmed from ignorance more than malice. However, my intercultural professor helped me realize my ignorant intent came across as malicious words to others. That hit me. I’m not a malicious person. The next few days after that class, I self-reflected a lot and questioned why I held those beliefs. I thought my beliefs were based on evidence, but soon realized that ‘evidence’ was hearsay from ignorant others. Therefore, I needed new evidence based on real experiences. That’s why I studied abroad.”

– Dr.Tarvin

This moment of self-reflection he had astonished me. It is one thing to feel shameful of your harmful beliefs, but a different thing to put effort into changing.

Then, in Dr.Tarvin’s story, he speaks about the culture shock he experienced during his study abroad in Mexico. As he explains in class, you reach a point where you want to reject the culture that you’re in. It happens anytime you experience change, and it happened to him in Mexico. He found himself alone and confused, and he sat on the ground while Yellow played.

Surprisingly enough, things went uphill from that night in Mexico. He fell in love with the people, the language, the culture, and even extended his trip. But, that doesn’t come without effort. At any point, you can always decide to go back home and quit.

Responses from Dr.Tarvin

Why is it so important to you that you teach this lecture to college students?

“Racism is a sensitive topic in our society. Everyone feels the need to claim they’re not racist even if they have racist beliefs. I hope that my message inspires others on two fronts: (1) sometimes racism is simply ignorance that can be conquered with new experiences and deep self-reflexivity, and (2) we can all grow from our experiences and be defined based on our current self. I hope that my message inspires students to think about their own beliefs and challenge any that they ‘know’ because of hearsay. To go out and experience the world. To recognize ignorance is no excuse. To become a better human being.”

Do you think that sharing your story and owning up to your own ignorance has impacted students?

“I think so, yes. Most of my students are familiar with my “Yellow” speech where I share my journey. They tell me often that they think of me when they hear the song. I had one student study abroad with me and told me he did so because my story helped him realize his own struggles”

How hard is it for you to share your story? How did you get so comfortable with it?

“Yes, the first time I shared the story with students, I was quite nervous. I did so after an event on campus happened where High School students from Uplift Prep School in Dallas received racial comments on campus while visiting. I needed to address racism after this event. I thought my personal story would connect with students in an open, honest, and meaningful way. Student feedback from different racial backgrounds helped me realize the message hit home. I’m still not ‘comfortable’ with the story, but I find it is important to provide. The story explains why I do what I do and how I became who I am.”

His Impact

Dr.Tarvin rekindled something for me. I had spent so many years not holding myself or other people accountable for our harmful beliefs, that I almost forgot how to have empathy. By forcing myself to be apathetic toward these issues, I was disconnected from others. I was slowing down change, and maybe encouraging these racist habits.

This lecture is uncomfortable and raw. I encourage any student at Texas A&M to take a class of his and learn what it means to be willing to grow. His vulnerability and transparency impact his classes in a thoughtful way. He leads by example. It is always difficult to look in the mirror, and even harder to change. But when your professor is sharing his story of change and empathy, he’s encouraging every student (and anyone who shares his experience) to find it within themselves to change.

As a Mexican, Afro-Latina, Black girl, a person of color, and a human being: This story touched my heart. I no longer want to hide behind kind smiles and laughter.

Dear Dr.Tarvin,

Thank you for being relentlessly transparent and passionate. Your empathy towards other people, and your desire to make the world a more welcoming place have impacted me. I’m looking in the mirror. I’m re-evaluating my actions and the steps I want to take in an effort to mirror the ways you grow.

Your message is definitely heard, and I am so grateful that you use your position to do something so impactful. You are always pushing us to tap into our empathy and reflect.

You make me uncomfortable. Thank you.



Ameenah Wilson is the Social Media Director for Her Campus at Texas A&M University's chapter. She is a Sophomore Communication major, and oversees the Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tik Tok pages. She ensures that the accounts relate back to Her Campus at TAMU and topics generally about local events or the university (and reflect our happy members). Ameenah moved to College Station from San Antonio, Texas to attend Texas A&M. She has had multiple roles involving social media and website design. She's currently pursuing a social media certificate from A&M on top of her degree. She has an endless list of hobbies: reading newsletters (obsessively), playing tennis, painting/drawing, and creating "movies" on her personal social media! The biggest parts of her personality are centered around her cat, Mochi, and the color pink! She is big on makeup, fashion, athletics, and media. Her writing is usually centered around her personal experiences regarding race, religion, and college hardships. The same goes for her “movies”. She has a passion for creating short videos to share with anyone willing to watch– usually, they reflect her writing. In everything she makes, it’s centered around some sort of passion of hers.