Reader’s Submission: Let’s Talk About Race

Race is a complex subject to take on, especially at Marquette University. I therefore applaud Ms. Bridget Gamble for having taken on such a difficult conversation in her viewpoints column titled “Making the most of diversity at MU” (in the Jan. 24 issue). She hits some of her tips “for becoming more racially aware” right on the head but unfortunately fails to take some of her own advice while making other points. So I thought it would be beneficial to our campus if I shared some knowledge on race and racism compiled from personal experience as a student of color, discussions with friends and family and lectures by our amazing Marquette professors:

1. Race is a social construct that has been institutionalized. Race is a concept that was created out of the blue by Europeans during their colonial conquests of the Americas to justify their domination and oppression of the original peoples of the continent. Unfortunately, these made up arbitrary categories have now been institutionalized into our everyday lives and affect everything from education, to legislation, to employment.

2. Language has the power to separate and dehumanize, so use it carefully. You become a human individual thanks to language because through naming, you become one amongst billions. Conversely, language has the power to take that humanity away. Using the n-word for African Americans, or the i-word for undocumented immigrants, or the c-word for women, or the f-word for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters dehumanizes them. Once a person is dehumanized it allows for that person to be brutalized without moral remorse, something that should never happen. People within those groups can chose to use those words with each other because they understand the struggle that comes with being part of that group, but if you are not part of the group don’t use offensive, dehumanizing language!

3. Don’t ascribe negative terms to already struggling peoples or places. Here unfortunately I must turn to Ms. Gamble’s tips. Her third tip reads “Explore ‘bad’ neighborhoods” and after reading her last tip, “Watch your language” it becomes sadly ironic. The neighborhoods she is talking about are NOT bad. Yes, bad things happen there, but not because the people living there, including myself, are bad. Continuously ascribing negative terms to already struggling people causes internalized oppression. If we continuously tell someone that people that look like them or live where they live are bad, they’ll start thinking that maybe they’re bad too and this shouldn’t be happening. And no, the quotation marks do nothing to alleviate the harm the words within them cause.

4. Differences should be acknowledged and surpassed. Race doesn’t exist but we are culturally and physically different. Humanity is at its best when it acknowledges that someone is different and yet is able to look beyond that and love and respect that different person as a fellow human being. Colorblindness is not what we should strive for because there is nothing humanly amazing about blurring everything to make one color. We have different skin colors and eat different foods and go to different churches, but we shouldn’t be afraid of these differences. It’s hard I know, but let’s be brave, let’s be courageous and let’s free ourselves from the fear that paralyzed our parents.  Let’s acknowledge that we are different but love each other despite that. Only then will the foundations of race — fear and hatred — begin to crumble.

Maricela Aguilar

Senior in the College of Arts & Sciences