Not Like Taking a Fifth Class

By Guest Contributor

An article in the November 13, 2013 edition of the Campus, “Racial Casting Call Criticized” quoted Debanjan Roychoudhury ’16 as saying that “being a student of color at Middlebury is kind of like taking a fifth class.” I hope that after this piece comes out, someone quotes me saying that being a student of color at Middlebury means nothing more than that you are a student of color at Middlebury. Everything else you feel about that is your own doing. Everyone warns you about the culture shock. Nobody ever said that you have to let it affect you negatively.

Maybe this comes with my personal identity, but I don’t really relate to every issue with which students of color sometimes find issue. I have trained myself not to let trivial things separate me from that which what I truly believe. If I believe that I can make it in this world regardless of my social class, of my ethnic background, or of my gender then I should do my best to try. I do not make extra obstacles for myself and I feel like that separates me from a handful of the other students on this campus. I do not care if wealthy students throw wealth-themed parties for other wealthy students. I do not care if I get a cast calling for a theater role for which I fit the description. I do not care if a demographer tells me that people that share my race and class don’t often amount to anything. I do not care because I am here.

I am here because I want to succeed. To succeed you should learn from those who have succeeded before. So listen to them. Everyone is ignorant to some extent. Teach them about your world and, in exchange, have them teach you about theirs. I’m taking advantage of my resources. I’m networking. I’m learning about the world I never had access to, and I’m learning how to make it work for me. People might cringe to read this, but when Murray Dry spoke at the panel last year about affirmative action and said, “don’t worry about it, be happy that you’re here,” I couldn’t help but feel the same way.

Now, saying that I don’t care about what the demographer said or even simply agreeing with one of Murray Dry’s statements doesn’t mean I don’t care about what I’ve left behind or who I am. I don’t need either one to tell me what I already know. I live it every time I go home to gang violence, the drug wars that come with it and the impoverished community in which I have lived my entire life. When I get back to Middlebury, it is those memories that help me push through the next ten page paper, through the next French text analysis, through the next three all-nighters and meal-less days I power through in the library. I’m trying to be successful for everyone I’ve left behind — so I can give back and teach them the secrets to success we have been denied our whole lives.

I am not saying I have never had a bad experience at Middlebury. The rigor of everything constantly depresses me because it’s a reminder of the abysmal education I received my whole life. Spanglish is not an acceptable means of communication, I have to put up with Americanized Mexican food, and I can’t expect people to waltz instead of grind on the dance floor. I feel homesick every few weeks. I want to see more brown and black faces. It’s rough. I’m sure these setbacks are not unique to me. But these are all things that I can get over and cope with. I’m not willing to make more problems for myself. I don’t see the logic in it.

I want to be an educator. I want to be a mentor. I want to be that stepping stone that is too often overlooked because it hides beneath the water’s surface. I can’t do that if I constantly over-analyze and judge the white, upper-middle-class society I chose to immerse myself in for every mistake they may or may not have made in an attempt to cater to what they assume are our needs. I have my share of worries, but I never go out of my way to find myself more. I’m too focused on the task at hand.

 JEANETTE CORTEZ ’15 is from Los Angeles, CA

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