A parting message to Bethel

May 9, 2013 | 11 a.m.

‘I’ve experienced many occasions that have made me regret my decision coming here’

Views | Edwin Gonzalez to The Clarion

Race and skin color

A letter from Edwin Gonzalez, addressed to the Bethel community.

I close my eyes and I reflect on my time at Bethel, and this is what I remember.

“You’re brown, and you speak Spanish … so you’re obviously Mexican.” (I’m Salvadorean!)

“Latin@’s are lazy and only come here to steal our money and wreck our economy. But not you; you’re the exception.”

“Well, if people of color weren’t so lazy they wouldn’t be where they are.”

“Oh, that’s gay.”

“This is America, we speak English here.”

“You’re just taking this way out of proportion. You need thicker skin.”

“If you want to be treated fairly, go back to your country.”

Now tell me: Do any of these phrases, remarks, comments or views affect you in any way? If your answer is no, then it’s probably because you don’t share the same struggle some of us do who put up with ignorant comments that perpetuate nothing but a false reality.

During my time at Bethel I’ve experienced many occasions that have made me regret my decision coming here. I obviously chose to stay, but it wasn’t an easy decision. People can say that I am making myself the victim and as someone previously pointed out, I need thicker skin. Regardless, I refuse to think that those who entertain themselves with perpetuating lies truly understand the complexities of this world. That is not to say that I am by any means the exception, since I too fall short, but it’s important that we critically reflect on the decisions we make so that we can continue to grow and learn about what it means to be humyn.

Until this day, I don’t know what that means or what that looks like, but I know that it should not come at the cost of dehumynizing someone else in order to temporarily entertain ourselves with laughter. At a point, I too used sexist language and made myself the victim of every racist joke, but soon enough I realized that I was beginning to internalize an ideology heavily rooted in an oppressive colonial and patriarchal past that many of our ancestors fought hard to get rid of. It is true that we live in a ubiquitous system and that every decision we make will negatively impact someone somewhere in this world, but it is what we do that should change the historical patterns we are repeating.

In my time here I’ve noticed that the same people who claim to know a God who is about justice and mercy are the same ones who continue to ignore how history has impacted our current-day society and has privileged some far more than others. People like to view this world from a safe, historical standpoint that doesn't consider the impact that those before us have had on our society. We like to view things from a point that does not question the status quo, and especially not our comfort zones, so we can continue indulging in the lies that dehumynize others.

We are all part of a bigger world that is far too complex for us to understand in the short time that we have to live. To continue to lie to ourselves and think that there isn’t more that we can do to change the racist, ignorant, sexist, homophobic, androcentric, etc. path that we are on, is to side with the colonial legacy of oppression that has been carried on through these ideologies.

Sometimes I too feel like falling into complacency and forgetting that injustices even exist, because it’s not easy to learn about the awful things that happen in this world. It wasn’t easy learning about my male privilege. It wasn’t easy learning about my heterosexual privilege, but it was liberating knowing that in order to be humyn I had to reflect critically on how I was dehumynizing myself as I was dehumynizing others. It was liberating learning that my struggles as a person of color were not because it was an inherent trait to be deviant, but because I was part of a racialized society that overwhelmingly privileges one group over another, just as my gender in this patriarchal world privileges me over womyn. It isn’t easy, but life was never supposed to be easy, and I take that from my ancestors. The centuries of struggle and hardship they endured constantly remind me of why I need to continue to speak up.

Ask yourself, is the language you use and are the decisions you make critically thought about along with their implications? Do you walk into a store and consider thinking about what exploited body created that article of clothing? Do you critically think about the impact media has on how womyn view themselves? Do you critically think about how your homophobic language negatively impacts the community at large? Do you critically think about…

I know I sometimes don’t. But it’s a constant effort that has to happen on our end in order to create a culture of change – a more critically conscious culture, not a complacent one.

So I’ll end with this quote:

Che Guevara said, “If you tremble with indignation at every injustice, then you are a comrade of mine.”

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