This post is written by Nicole, a Filipina student here at the College who is active in the ALANA-A Brothers and Sisters Program:
While browsing across the web today, I came across an interesting Post Secret submission that said, “I was never said aware of my race until I came to college.” I hope I’m not the only person who feels that this hits a little close to home, but as I look towards graduation in May I constantly find myself reflecting on my past four years at Stonehill.
It’s not that I wanted to hide my Filipino-ness, I just prefer to fly under the radar. I didn’t want to call attention to my brown skin, almond shaped eyes, or round nose but I like to lay low by trying to fit in. In 6th grade, I begged my mother to let me dye my hair. I wanted dramatic blonde highlights clashed with my jet-black hair. At the time, it wasn’t a conscious decision to fit in or imitate every other blonde or dirty-blonde 6th grader I went to school with, I honestly thought it would make me look “cool.” Obviously, that was a stupid decision, but as I look back I did so many stupid things to try to make myself fit in and seem more “cool.” I flitted my way through middle school and high school lying low and under the radar, until I started college applications at the end of my junior year.
After applying and being accepted to many predominantly white Catholic colleges, I received so many invitations to open houses and overnight programs for “multicultural students.” It felt as if I were being vetted for a sorority with every brochure telling me wonderfully sugarcoated stories about the fantastic and inclusive experience their campus offered to students like me who are visibly different. It was such a jarring experience to be given special treatment to institutions that pride itself on their low acceptance rate. I, of course, declined all those invitations partly because I didn’t want to call attention to myself, and partly because I didn’t see myself as a student of color.
I still don’t know how I decided on Stonehill or why I ever thought this school would be the perfect place for me. I came to summer orientation, I took my place in the Stonehill community as just another female student and went along my merry little way, anticipating my college experience. I ignored phone calls, emails, and many mailings about the Kaleidoscope program and was so excited to move into Corr Hall with everyone else. But then, I found out I had a secondary advisor for students of color. I dreaded having to meet with him, but I would feel my Filipino-Catholic guilt eat at me forever if I cancelled. So I met with him, and he encouraged me to look at internship programs for students of color and join SGA’s Cultural Committee.
I did the latter. I ran for my class committee’s cultural committee representative and won with no opposition. I didn’t know at the time what it meant to be the “Class of 2011 Cultural Committee Representative” but it me on the map, in a way that I was previously uncomfortable. If I hated being the token Asian person, I definitely hated being the token cultural person. I hated every moment of being on that committee. Cultural committee didn’t have many programs or do much of anything, but I do remember one program. For a concert, our committee was to supply the food and our chair had decided to serve food from different countries, mainly whatever international food that our school’s catering services can make. The food consisted of nachos, spring rolls, and other blatantly obvious un-American foods – the type of foods our cafeteria makes to celebrate _____ heritage month.
Looking back, I realize that the discussion was missing. You can’t learn anything about Chinese culture from eating spring rolls, and not talking about its importance within Chinese culture. I applied for the ALANA-A Brothers and Sisters Leadership Program, a group dedicated to facilitating the conversation on diversity and creating a more inclusive campus. I didn’t know what it meant at the time to be an ALANA-A sister, it made me nervous to be accountable to the incoming first year students we support, and the rest of the student body who was sick of hearing how diverse the campus was in every way but race. I never thought of myself as a student of color, so how did I, all of a sudden, become a spokesperson against acts of bias when I had never been the victim of an act of bias? I joined because, even though I have never been the victim of bias, I knew what it was like to not “fit in.” All anyone ever wants is to fit in and be accepted, we spend our whole lives trying to get to that final point of self-actualization.
Maybe it’s the maturity that came with being a college student, but I really was never aware of my race until I got to college. I never knew I was brown, I never knew I was a student of color, and I never knew that acknowledging any of it would matter. Acknowledging and embracing our personal identities matters because there’s so much we can learn from our peers and so much we can share with them.