Opinion | Columns

Latinidad on a post-election campus

Nov. 9 was probably one of the most devastating days on our campus in recent memory. The melancholy and frustration I felt as a Latina only got worse as the day carried on. In a failed attempt to work through my emotions and identify future steps to take, I—like many Columbia students—participated in conversations about the presidential election and what might come next.

But in too many cases, I encountered discussions in which racism and immigration—among other subjects—were portrayed as abstractions that had nothing to do with our campus or even this country. In some cases, these issues and we who bear their weight were simply ignored—in part to avoid confronting uncomfortable truths about power and marginalization in the United States. Even as the number of hate crimes soars and continues to strike fear in us "potential targets," many of my white peers reacted with an incredulous ignorance about how bad things have been and will continue to be for many of us.

Although almost all who study here think of themselves as progressive agents against racism, transphobia, and other forms of prejudice, too many did not do and have not done justice to these very ideals. In the wake of the election results, for example, many of us have continued to feel pushed aside by our fellow classmates when we most need their support. Too many have refused to demonstrate with us, advocate for us with friends and family, or even acknowledge our specific concerns. Speaking truthfully, I’ve never felt more profoundly alienated from my white peers or afraid of how they might continue to fail us.

The horrible first few days after the election were, for me, only made livable by one thing: The unprecedented level of understanding, support, and solidarity that I felt with all of us who were directly targeted by the results. We who are Queer, of color, or both became a fire-forged community: We cared for, reached out en masse to, and connected broadly and deeply with each other.

We have been hit hard and have legitimate fears of the difficulties to come and those that will continue unopposed. But this collective "we" encompasses a variety of identities, and I do not and cannot pretend to fully understand how all of my beloved peers are feeling. As a Puerto Rican woman and proud member of the Latinx community on campus, I can only speak specifically to our Latinx experiences, our struggles, and our needs in the current political climate.

In many ways, the past couple of weeks have perhaps been some of the busiest ever for Columbia's Latinx community. We had to maintain our cultural, social, and political presence on campus while also fighting for our dignity and for the issues that matter to us and our families.

We celebrated Chicanx Caucus' annual Quince, Sabor's Fall Show, and the Student Organization of Latinx's Orgullo Latinx (showcasing Perú this year) at the same time that we demonstrated against the misogyny, xenophobia, and racism that pervade our athletic culture, walked out in support of the undocumented on this campus and beyond, and circulated letters in support of DACA. Some students in particular—Latinx and beyond—exhibited a tremendously admirable amount of courage and spoke publicly about their experiences with being undocumented or coming from mixed-status families.

Through these actions, we have continued to do what we have always done in the face of adversity. And we will continue to fight as long as necessary for our right to exist on this campus in every sense of the word.

At least for now, we have succeeded in one of these goals. The news that Columbia is now a sanctuary campus and that the administration will support undocumented students and applicants seemed like a culmination of these weeks. But it would be naive to think that our struggles end here.

In the days, weeks, and years to come, I ask you who are not Latinx, of color, Queer, or a member of any other group endangered by the events of Nov. 9 to be ready to listen more intently to our perspectives. Be patient with us and understand when we're trying to be patient with you. Stand up for our concerns, and confront those who do us wrong. And finally, be prepared to hold the administration accountable to the promises it has made and to push for even more protections for our community.

Patricia Pou Jové is a Puerto Rican senior in Columbia College studying history and educational studies. She tweets at @ppoujove, and is not American but—like everybody else in the world—has to deal with your mess. Not Your Chica runs alternate Mondays.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.


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