When I talked to my mom about the racially charged incidents of the past week, she was worried. After I described to her the reported incident at SAE, she asked, “Do you think they would’ve let you in?”
Referring to my anger at SAE’s alleged refusal to admit anyone other than “white girls,” my mom didn’t mean to imply that I was unnecessarily upset. As my parent, she was most concerned with where I fit into this situation. If I showed up at a crowded frat house, would one of the brothers want me to enter? Would I be deemed attractive enough in the eyes of these men?
Pinning down my heritage is hard with my light-to-medium olive skin tone. I’m tall from my Italian heritage, but I have South-American, indigenous cheekbones. So I guess I don’t always know how some people might categorize me.
I don’t go to frats. I went to some frat parties in the blur of early freshman year, and a handful of other events over the years, but that’s not my scene. But these recent events have sparked thinking about my relationships to SAE and other groups of predominantly white, heterosexual men and women.
Between freshman and junior year, people (all of whom were white, and most of whom were women) have commented on the fact that I’m lucky or fortunate to be “ethnic” but not overtly so. With the intention of complimenting me, many white men and women express a fantasy to me about marrying a person of color, a POC. They discuss their desire for mixed-race children as though we are objects for Pinterest boards.
I have been thinking a lot about the discussion to address Yale’s recent racialized issues in the Af-Am House on Monday evening. I showed up late to a room of cultural center deans and other members of the Intercultural Affairs Committee. There were a handful of white students. The vast majority of participants were black, Latina and/or indigenous women and a few men of color. We spoke freely.
Around the room, there was validation for what I have always felt on this campus, what I have sensed my whole life: Being a woman of color can be exhausting.
I can’t tell you how many women in that room were not surprised by the events that transpired; to us, they are realities. And the events of the past weekend reinforced that Yale lacks safe, supportive spaces on campus.
I urge you to understand that racial privilege and wealth still breeds a huge degree of ignorance. Many people doubt this weekend’s allegations because they haven’t personally experienced racism. Not experiencing racism doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Privilege doesn’t make you evil. But the world treats us differently based on what we look like and where we come from. To suggest otherwise is to ignore the wearied faces of the women in the Af-Am House on Monday evening, to ignore their tears, to ignore their signs and protests, to ignore how few POC we read or discuss in our classrooms, to ignore the hostile messages so many of us get whenever we dare to speak out about our legitimate experiences.
My mother’s question continues to echo in my mind. Would they let me in? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not comfortable with that ambiguity because I don’t know the answer and a lot of us are asking the same question — whether we are white, colored, mixed or whatever. How are we granted inclusion to certain spaces or organizations on campus?
Our campus is diverse, but there are still pockets of segregation. There are performance groups made for white people, and there are performance groups made for colored people. Many may chalk it up to POC’s lack of initiative. They should just try to join. But do we consider why it’s harder for some of us to feel comfortable knocking on those doors?
My lens of the world has an ambiguous filter: occasionally white and occasionally brown and always both (a walking contradiction, and yet, I am one body).
We need to think critically about where we fit in and where we want to fit in. Some doorways don’t deserve us waiting outside. I think of the sorority profile pictures, replete with white women. I think of my own guilt for not being a “better Latina” who’s involved with La Casa. I think of the roles we assign ourselves, and how they are racialized.
I think of the boys who’ve told me, “I’m not racist, I just date white girls.”
I want to ask those boys, so many boys: Really?
Adriana Miele is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College. Her column runs on Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .