Lizzy Seeberg

Lizzy Seeberg.

It’s a name I know well. It’s a name I wish I didn’t know because of why I know it. And back in November the world learned the name as well.

I remember it all too well. I was in my senior year at Notre Dame when Lizzy’s name spread like wildfire across a community that suddenly seemed too small.

This is one of those stories that makes me ashamed of my alma mater. I love much of what ND stands for. I loathe the lengths the institution will go to protect what it stands for and more often, its image. And yes, its athletics.

Lizzy was a student at nearby sister school, St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s is an all women’s school, where Notre Dame men once went to pick their wives (a rant for another day. ND didn’t go co-Ed until the 1970s). Lizzy accused a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her. Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) did nothing. I remember being sick to my stomach reading about the text message another football player wrote to Lizzy warning her “not to mess with Notre Dame football.” The worst part of this story is that the details only came out after Lizzy died by suicide shortly after the alleged assault.

On November 22nd, Lizzy’s dad shared her story with the world when CNN broadcasted the Hunting Ground to millions. I watched as a former NDSP officer spoke of the rules in place prohibiting authorities from approaching athletes at any athletic facilities or through any athletic staff members. A system designed to protect student-athletes.

Others likely remember the Jameis Winston story-line from the documentary. Another prominent example of how a school and a city will do anything to protect a prized athletic program. It came as no surprise that Jameis threatened to sue CNN if they screened the film or that FSU attempted to poke holes in the film but producers had a brilliant response to their allegations focused on factual information of the investigation.

Major props to CNN for showing the film despite those calls to withdraw support.

It was certainly interesting to have my family watch the film on television. While my parents did not attend college, having seen two daughters navigate two very different campuses, it sometimes takes me by surprise how little they know with some of these topics. Hearing the statistics of sexual assault was especially difficult for my mom. Maybe it was better for them to hear these numbers after both her daughters have long since graduated. I can only image how scary it is to know those numbers, kiss your girls goodbye and hope for the best.

I still have no idea what the best way to prepare young women is. We shouldn’t even have to prepare them. Because, if we are being honest, any “preparations” we engage in leads to victim blaming. A fraternity was also featured in the film. As a professional, who recently worked with fraternity men and sorority women, I wish I could say I didn’t encounter students who are unaware of dynamics and factors that contribute to a rape-supportive culture (e.g. short shorts & escort theme party). But I do. Worse yet, is the email that comes from the university (after an assault) with included “tips,” which apparently are to keep people from getting assaulted. After receiving this email, it was only a matter of hours before a sorority woman approached me angry about the language being used. And she was right. Let’s be clear – the only thing that can prevent rape are rapists. I could do nothing but agree with her. I could not validate my employer.

I had suppressed the memory of Lizzy so much, that hearing it again caused me to be incredibly emotional. I think part of that comes from knowing so much more and knowing how common sexual assault is. I think it comes from working with college men and women every day and how much I care for them.

Lizzy’s name is one I cannot forget. She was taken far too early from this world and to this day, no one has been held accountable for what happened to her. I just want it to stop.

On the other side, I cringe whenever I hear Jameis’ name on Sports Center or ESPN. This is rape-supportive culture at its greatest. After evading arrest and prosecution and vilifying a survivor, he was still able to win the Heisman and be drafted into the NFL – constantly lauded for his accomplishments, while a young woman’s life has been irreparably changed. I just want it to stop.

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Paper Cuts and Fatal Bullets

In my current job, I create and facilitate bystander intervention trainings for student leaders. We focus not only on sexual assault prevention, but other instances where we may need to step in as active bystanders. This year, we’ve added a section around microaggressions, and students have about a million and seven questions about them. Which is fine when the questions are respectful, because students are all in the sessions to learn (and my problematic self didn’t even learn the term until my senior year in college, so I’m one to judge). I’m excited students come in eager to gain knowledge, but whew!

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Besides the basic:

  1. “what is a microaggression” (answer: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color” [Sue, et al., 2007]), and
  2. “are White girls who wear Ugg boots and drink PSLs targets of microaggression? “(answer: no)

a question I’ve heard this year, and have gotten in the past when talking about microaggressions is “why are microaggressions a big deal? They’re like…tiny aggressions. They aren’t a big deal as killing someone, so why are we talking about them?” (This is a mashup of direct quotes from different individuals telling me or other facilitators that microaggressions aren’t a big deal. Most of these are from White folks, p.s.)

If you can’t tell, this particular question bothers me to no end. Hold on to this thought.

Two days ago, I saw a notification on my phone that #TerenceCrutcher was trending on Twitter. At this point, I, like many others, have an unfortunate sixth sense about names that trend as hashtags. I assumed the worst. Today, like other days, I was correct. Terence Crutcher was a Black man murdered by the police in Tulsa, OK last Friday (yes, Oklahoma, the same state where former Oklahoma City Daniel Holtzclaw sexually assaulted 13 Black woman). He was tasered, then fatally shot. The Tulsa Police Department released the video tape of his death was released today, and right before Terence was killed, a police officer said “That looks like a bad dude, too.” I would like to point out: Terence did not have a weapon on him, or in his car. When he stepped out of his vehicle, he had his hands up. The police still killed him. I would also like to point out: he was on the middle of the road because his car broke down.

Yesterday, I learned that Keith Lamont Scott was shot and murdered by the police in Charlotte, North Carolina. Police reported him coming out of his car with a handgun, and said they gave him multiple warnings to drop his gun. His family reported that Scott was disabled, and he was reading a book in his car while waiting for his son to head out to school. The mayor is telling protesters in Charlotte to be “calm, ” and the police wants people to know that what the police are investigating looks different than what’s said on social media. Never mind that many a White terrorist with guns have been taken in alive. Never mind that police can’t confirm if he did indeed point a gun at them.

Last Wednesday, Tyre King was murdered by the police in Columbus, Ohio. He was 13 years old, and was fatally shot three times because he pulled out a handgun out of his waistband. That turned out to be an air pistol. Two things: Tyre was less than 5 feet tall, and weighed less than 100 pounds. It’s reported that any one of the three shots could have killed him. Also, the police were after Tyre King because they said he matched a description of robbery suspects (And as you read up, Keith was also known to be holding a gun when he exited his car). Last time I talked about Alton Sterling on Facebook, a Becky got up in my post about “supporting a criminal.” I don’t have much patience for that nonsense this time around, especially since Tyre was just a baby at 13. So I’m just going to put this here:

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Whew. Okay.

I’ve heard microaggressions described as “death by a 1000 paper cuts” (Nadal et al., 2011, p. 234). When we quote this, we often talk about how racial microaggressions “create a hostile and invalidating climate for people of color, saps their spiritual and psychic energies, and their cumulative nature can result in depression, frustration, anger, rage, loss of self esteem, anxiety, etc” (Sue, 2007). They’re a big deal to individuals who have to go through bullshit upon daily bullshit, so to say microaggressions aren’t a big deal is to completely dismiss the experience of marginalized folks.

But we need to remember with the “death by a 1000 paper cuts” metaphor, microaggressions could actually lead to just that: death. Because police aren’t just killing us out of nowhere. The police officer who claimed Terence was a “bad dude” didn’t just wake up that day thinking Black men look like bad men. The police officers who determined a <100 pound teenager a threat didn’t start believing that Black children could carry a handgun and be monsters five minutes before Trye was killed.  The police officers who shot Keith to death didn’t instantly have a shoot-to-kill bias against Black men. There’s previous, deep-seated bias that led the cops to think Black men/teens=scary=less than human=kill them . And often times, these biases first manifest themselves into microaggressions before they snowball into full-blown aggression. When we ignore racial microaggressions, or say they’re not a big deal, we’re giving permission to these biases. We’re saying that it’s okay to treat folks of color as less than human, or not normal. We’re essentially laying the groundwork.

No, the act of murdering a Black person isn’t the same as touching our hair. The act of murdering a Black person isn’t the same as mistaking us for another Black person. The act of murdering a Black person isn’t the same as thinking my name isn’t “normal” isn’t the same as ignoring me at the grocery store isn’t the same as dressing in Black face for Halloween. Congratulations for figuring that out. And guess what? I, and others who often experience microaggressions know that too, so don’t patronize us by pointing this out.

But let’s stop pretending this issues are so far removed from each other, spinning in opposite orbits in different planets. We work to stop racial microaggressions to make sure people of color can belong, and so others can stop seeing us as less than human. Because, as we’ve seen today, this week, and time and time again, the consequences for institutions–such as the criminal system–assuming we are less than human  are potentially fatal. The question “microaggressions aren’t important, so why are we even discussing them” is totally ignorant of this fact. And, quote honestly, the “they aren’t as bad as xyz” point/question is one people make usually because they have a tough time letting go of their racist-ass behaviors.

I will entertain all other questions on microaggressions. But don’t you dare try to tell me that they aren’t a big deal. And don’t you dare use the bodies of slain folks of color to make your point.

#StayMad, Commenters

Pacific Lutheran University, my place of employment (Go Lutes!), recently hired Rae Linda Brown as the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. To put it eloquently, Rae Linda Brown is a baddie. She earned both her M.A. in African American Studies and Music and Ph.D. in Musicology from Yale, served extensively in multiple academic affairs positions at different institutions, and is gearing up to do big things at PLU. Every time I see her around campus, I want to tell her how awesome she is. Actually, I do try and tell her that, but it always comes out awkward because I’m awkward, and I think she thinks I’m kinda weird. Also, throughout this article, I will be referring to Rae Linda Brown only as Rae Linda Brown, because not using the full 13 letters seems wrong. Put some respeck on her name, please.

Recently, PLU published an article on Rae Linda Brown’s upcoming strategies for enhancing the school’s academy excellence, specifically, her call to diversify our very white faculty and staff. If you have time, read the whole article here. It has some fantastic gems, including:

“We cannot expect to recruit and retain students of color if the academic climate is not welcoming to them,” [Rae Linda Brown] said in her speech. “We cannot expect to be an institution of excellence if voices are absent from the community.”

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Of course, not everyone is thrilled about this, and when PLU posted the article on its Facebook page, some people were mad. They came ready with their thesis statements on why they thought Rae Linda Brown was full of it. White tears came to play, because obviously we can’t have nice things when White fragility is threatened.

Honestly, it’s upsetting to see people so distraught over the idea of hiring staff and faculty of color, but it’s not new. Whenever institutions, especially institutions of higher education, try and create plans in place to hire more people of color, there are always those who cry “unfair affirmative action.” Instead of coming out right and acknowledging White Supremacy and their own subconscious desire to have a majority White faculty and staff body because they’re the worst its role in creating a lack of educators of color at universities and colleges, they make excuses on why focusing on diversity in hiring practices is awful. There are typically a few of the same arguments* that come out of the woodwork when we talk about any school hiring more diverse staff and faculty, and many of them presented themselves in the comments on Facebook.

*In fact, I’m being generous by calling them “arguments,” because Webster’s Dictionary defines “argument” as “a coherent series of statements leading from a premise to a conclusion,” and some of these comments are absolutely not that.

Argument 1: It shouldn’t matter what color people are, but only if the faculty are excellent.

Yes, faculty should be great. The goal isn’t to hire terrible faculty. But why is hiring faculty of color mutually exclusive with hiring amazing faculty? Is it so hard to believe there are some fantastic professors and staff who aren’t White?

And I hate to break it to you…but it actually does kind of matter. I want to stress: our staff and faculty are very White. So White, we could have a collection of “So White/How White jokes” devoted to the lack of melanin. I can’t think of any at the moment. But what I can tell you is we have 35% students of color (and 41% are first generation college students), and we miiiiight have 15% staff and faculty of color. Maybe. We know that students of color need faculty and staff of color, both for mentorship opportunities, and for the feeling of belonging that comes from seeing someone who looks like you in a position of educational power. How can we serve students of color when the possibility of them going through PLU without seeing a single faculty of color in the classroom is high?

And p.s., yes, that hyper-underlined sentence in the middle of the previous paragraph contains nine different articles supporting my claim that students of color need faculty of color for support (and there are easily dozens more). I come with my receipts ready to go.

Argument 2: Race is a social construct, we are all #oneloveoneraceoneskinonemind, and by talking about diversity, you are the racist.

Yes, yes, the modern day, scientific “I don’t see color.” Race is a social construct. And guess who made it a social construct? Hint: it wasn’t the black and brown bodies that were colonized, enslaved, murdered, and/or ignored proper medical treatment. I don’t ever want to hear or see the phrase “race is a social construct”, unless it’s followed up by “and because it was a social construct designed by European and White folks, a group of people with structural power, the negative impacts, prejudice, and racism that come with this man-created hierarchy are very real.” Because “racism as a social construct” does not equal “there is no racism, and no need to hire faculty or staff of color.”

Also, I’m perplexed why highlighting diversity automatically means we’re causing a divide, and how “seeing color” is “racism.” Okay. Also, let me not catch you using all your breath to cry “racism” when we’re talking about hiring more folks of color, but then staying silent when people of color are slain by the police. 🐸☕️

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Yes, I have used this gif around 20 times in previous posts. I will never not use this gif. I will be using this gif ’till the day I stop grinding. I don’t even know if it quite makes sense in this placement here, and I don’t care. This little boy is life.

Argument #3: We need to be able to understand our faculty!

As a daughter of immigrant parents, this one especially boils my blood. The argument is that sometimes, when we hire global scholars, they aren’t good teachers because English is their second language, or they don’t speak English in the “correct” way. This is the worst dot com backslash this is ridiculous.

  1. Why don’t we celebrate people’s ability to speak more than one language? Especially if the faculty or staff just came from another country where they had the opportunity to speak in their native tongue. In fact, we should do more than celebrate, we should be in awe. The ability to teach in a language that isn’t your first-learned language is an incredible skill.
  2. The fact that we say “we can’t understand” someone because they don’t speak English they way YOU understand it is so far rooted in US-centrism and Whiteness, it makes me sick. Why is there only one way certain way to speak a language, to pronounce certain words? And why is it that Americans, and often, White folk, get to decide the pronunciation?

A thousand petty prayers upon whoever makes argument.

Argument 4: Random “points” that have nothing to do with ANYTHING.

I.e., in this case, someone took the time to comment how “sad” they were that PLU graduated students who “no longer put their faith in God” but become “atheists.” They took the time, however, to pray that PLU students “return to their Christian roots,” though, so. Thank you for your kindness, I guess.

If three plus seven equals tree, and Kim Kardashian eats peaches, then is there no place for God at PLU? Oh, what? That sentence doesn’t make any sense, nor is it pertinent to my point? Huh. HOW WEIRD. What fight are you even fighting here? I don’t think you read through the prompt, let alone took the time to study for the right quiz (I guess, in my analogy, the quiz being “Let’s Get Mad About Hiring More People of Color”). And why do I get the feeling that even if you were on a relevant track, you’d still be wrong?

The vindictive cousin of Argument #4 is “Attacking the person in the article by using racist statements that have no place anywhere, let alone this comment section” (like for example, oh, getting so mad over a reboot of a movie because your nerd-masculinity is so easily broken, you end up calling a Black woman an ape). Luckily, the comments didn’t veer that way. And you don’t know how mad I am at myself, and society, that I actually typed out that last sentence. Like, “whew. Okay. The comments were terrible, but at least no one called Rae Linda Brown a racial slur publicly on Facebook.” I don’t think I’d expect that from PLU community members; then again, I have been unpleasantly surprised time and time again.

I’m not going to waste any more of my time on those enrolled in the Abigail Fisher School of Being Upset That Someone Wants to Make a Place for People of Color in Higher Education. All I can say is, if you’re mad that a school wants to hire more educators of color, I need you to take a critical look inward and ask yourself why.

And of course, keep embodying #BlackExcellence, Rae Linda Brown.

But could we all vote, though?

Women’s Equality Day is creep creep creeping around the corner, a date I almost forgot until I saw a post on a Facebook page. According to the National Women’s History Project, August 26 is “the date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.”

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That’s cute. First, of all, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18th, so I don’t know where this new date comes into play. But besides that, I want to make something very clear:

  1. Women’s Equality does NOT celebrate the right for all women to vote. Let’s get this right. The minute the 19th Amendment was passed might have”legally” been for all women, but it was truly not the same minute, day, year, or decade all women of color could vote in this country. Thanks to some awesome disenfranchisement methods, it is only when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed that more people in our country could vote. Check out this handy dandy U.S. Voting Rights Timeline if you don’t believe me.
  2. Additionally, the suffragettes of lore were hella racist. As in, they were proud White supremacists. Proud White supremacists that forced Black women to march in the back. But of course, depending on where you go to school, educators won’t bring this up when you a baby glimpse of it in Iron Jawed Angels (it’s almost like the U.S. school system is run by White supremacy and privilege or something).

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I say this because I’m sure, like last year, Facebook is going to create a cutesy graphic with women of all races celebrating August 26, without acknowledging that only White women could vote when the 19th Amendment passed. And without fail, some White feminists will add some sort of pro-Women’s Equality Day post, and then get mad when someone calls it out. I can already see the “why are you dividing the movement?” comments, and it makes my blood boil. Girl, I’m not dividing the feminist movement; your refusal to name the exclusivity of the 19th Amendment and voter laws is doing the job!

I also say this because this is yet another blatant reminder of how WhiteFeminism™ refuses to acknowledge any intersectionality in the feminist movement, and SAYS THAT WE’RE THE ONES CAUSING TROUBLE when we critique the “equality for some” notion of feminism. And then refuses to stand up for anyone who, well, isn’t a White woman. For example, I think about the misogynistic hate crimes Leslie Jones is receiving, as her White co-stars sit in radio silence, with nary a mention of solidarity. I’m not saying the ones most responsible are not the racist fuckboys who are sending her hateful tweets and hacking her website (because White masculinity is so fragile, they  can’t handle a reboot of Ghostbusters. It is amazing how quickly racism and sexism comes into play when men feel their “nerd space” is “threatened.”) But I’m also asking… Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon. You self-proclaimed feminists. Where you at?

#sorrynotsorry if you think I’m being hateful. I think it’s hateful when one doesn’t want to admit to the whitewashing of history. And just know that if you can’t stand for all women (women of color, poor women, undocumented women, queer women, trans women, women with disabilities, womyn/womxn, women who fit all and any of these identities and more), and then get mad when we point out the inequalities in your feminist movement, you didn’t really want equity, did you? In a marginalized group, you just wanted to be on top. You just wanted things to be equal for those that look like you.


Shout-out to those who still cannot vote, such as undocumented individuals, those who are convicted of a felony, individuals in U.S. territories, those who do not have access to polling stations, those suppressed by voter ID laws, and more. In the spirit of what I just wrote, if I am forgetting a group please let me know. Also, shout-out to the baddest b, Ida B. Wells, who refused to march in the back during the 1913 suffrage parade and instead slipped into the Illinois delegation after the parade started. For the person who wrote the Wikipedia page for Iron Jawed Angels: I hope you meant the way Wells and Paul had the conversation during the 1913 march is fictionally portrayed in the movie, and not that Ida B. Wells marching into the Illinois delegation is fictional. If you meant the latter, know that Ida B. Wells is giving you side-eye from the grave, and is better than you.

White Thug Lochte, Super-Human Gabby Douglas, and the Dominant Narrative at the Rio Olympics

For this blog post, we had the amazing Bianca “Call me Beyonce” Bellot write her thoughts. Bianca, who was a member of our SAHE cohort, is one of the wokest people we know, and we’re so excited for you all to read her piece! 

The Olympic Games in Rio were packed with both sexism and racism. As a queer woman of color, I felt both excited to watch the games unfold, and I had a shield up for good reason. I sat with my computer, angered as I read the initial coverage on white thug Lochte’s fake robbery. I grew angrier when the media laughed at his criminal activity and overt lies. And I really lost it when 20 year old, three-time Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas, was made to apologize for not smiling enough.

I am tired of entitled straight white men stealing the spotlight in sports. I am also tired of women of color being held to different standards and expectations in U.S. society, and in the Olympic arena. So to give credit where it is due, Gabby Douglas is an incredible super-human gymnast. She is unapologetically beautiful. She is unapologetically strong. She has been on the U.S.A national gymnastics team since she was 13, has three Olympic gold medals, three world championship medals, and several national medals. I am tired of journalists critiquing her African American hair and make-up and distracting the larger audience from her accomplishments. I am tired of the requests for her to apologize.

For those who are not bothered, you are not paying attention. Let me be real, white privilege is when a white male enters a foreign country, kicks down a bathroom door in a gas station, pisses all over the place, breaks the soap dispenser, gets into a belligerent fight with a security officer, attempts to leave without paying for the damage, and creates a detailed story about being robbed at gunpoint. An Olympic spokesperson (Mario Andrada) referred to Lochte as a kid who made a mistake. No.  Lochte is a grown 32 year old man. If Gabby needs to smile more, Lochte has a lot of work to do.

Lochte will not be held accountable. He is busy tweeting about what color he should dye his hair next. In his less than weak apology, he did not apologize for his actions. Lochte referenced his experience as “traumatic” and said he was sorry for taking attention from other athletes. I am not okay with his criminal behaviors, sappy story, and all the privilege that will afford him to go on and live a luscious life.

Racism is when Gabby Douglas did not put her hand over her heart during the national anthem and is ridiculed, bullied, and put to shame in casual conversations and in the wide-spread media. She needed to publicly apologize for being perceived as jealous of her teammates. Her apology may have saved her fame as some viewers felt she owed it to her country. White privilege is when two white male Olympic shot-putters (Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovaks) also did not put their hands over their hearts during the national anthem, and no one batted an eyelash. No one noticed. People were waiting for Gabby to make a mistake and they found an unreasonable opportunity to put her down instead of celebrating her successes. This is not a person of color’s issue. This is not a woman’s issue. This is everyone’s issue.

While I struggle to understand ways we can dismantle a long standing history of racism and sexism in this country, I believe we need to stop being complacent. I do not want to hear another excuse for a white man acting thoughtless or criminal, unless that is a set standard for all. I will not laugh at Lochte’s “childish” behaviors. I cannot stand watching people of color be torn apart as we inch towards success, while the stories of white individuals are consistently celebrated. This is everyone’s issue.

A Letter to my Freshman Self

Just over nine years ago, at the ripe age of 17, I made a decision – a decision that would guide many of the twists and turns my life has taken since then.

My admission letter said “Welcome Home” and I believed in all the promise that statement seemed to hold.

I am often found touting great things about the campus I called home for four years.

Proudly sporting “The Shirt” every Saturday in the fall. Standing behind our football team.

And more often, benefitting from the doors it opened for me.

However, those in my life are very much aware that I struggle with my alma mater. I love what it stands for but hate the lengths it will go to protect those things (e.g. a botched sexual assault investigation covered in the Hunting Ground – blog post to follow).

It prides itself on tradition.

But the problem with tradition is that is leaves certain groups of people out. “Traditionally” my alma mater (and most others) existed only to benefit White men. My alma mater only began admitting women in 1972. When I attend game watches, there is still an older demographic who are sure to let me know they attended in the “glory days” before I would have been allowed to even apply.

Notre Dame is not the easiest place for folks of color. That identity was one I had a hard time naming at that time. But through intentional reflection and conversations with those around me (thank you SAHE folks!), I have processed through much of my experience.

Apart from cheering on my teams in the fall or during March Madness, my engagement with Notre Dame is non-existent because I hold such resentment for a place that promised so much but didn’t deliver for me or those I surrounded myself with.

So, when a contest asking alums to write a letter to their Freshman selves was announced this past Spring semester, I thought about my lack of attachment and the processing I had done. I decided that it might be time to finally speak up and say something about my lackluster four years in South Bend. I quietly wrote a letter to myself, describing the difficulties and hope needed to persist. I told a single person about the endeavor, Kathy Sisneros at CSU. She had pushed me more that I would have liked at points BUT she played a large role in getting me to a place where I could talk about race and name my own and how it has shaped my own experiences, including those I had at Notre Dame. I had her read over the letter to challenge me once more as I finally hoped to tell my story with those who could change the trajectory of how future Domers experience life on campus.

Last month, I was dumbfounded to learn that my letter had been selected with 64 other alums to appear in a book that every incoming student will read this coming fall and for years to come.

I suppose before we get to the letter, I just want to acknowledge that my experience was far from perfect. And I doubt that it would be entirely different today. But the fact that Notre Dame has chosen to publish such a letter – and allow thousands to students access to it says something about the change the institution is at least trying to make. I work in student affairs because I want to make a difference in the lives of students and make higher education more accessible and rewarding for folks from underrepresented backgrounds. So, it really brings me joy to know that there are campuses out there trying to make change on an institutional level. Or are at least acknowledging the shortcomings of the past. We all have to start somewhere.

Okay, okay, here it is…

 

Dear Ashleigh,

Congratulations! You did it! While Frosh-O was a literal nightmare for your introverted self, this is still the place you’ve been dreaming about for a while.

However, you will soon realize you are not in LA anymore.

Your peers will begin to ask if you think you are here as the result of some affirmative action policy.

An instructor will be so surprised to find out that your last name originates in Mexico and he will poll the class to see “who can tell.”

A peer will publicly say undocumented people deserve to die if they arrive in an emergency room.

But I want you to know that you deserve to be here. You are no less worthy than they are. You are not operating at a deficit. Your voice matters and you should use it – use it to challenge others, to tell your story. These experiences will build resiliency and clarity of purpose. They will help you to embrace your identities in ways you haven’t discovered yet.

People will think you are not Brown enough but also not White enough. Regardless, you will find a group of people who love you because of your identities, not in spite of them. They will help you embrace who you are and stand by you as you learn more about your history through Latino Studies. Better yet, in the time you spend in McKenna, you will finally find professors who look like you and reflect a different experience.

As time passes, daily microaggressions will build up. Lean on your friends. They are having similar experiences and you do not have to face it alone. Find other students of color in your classes to exchange knowing glances with when something ludicrous happens. The silent camaraderie will get you through. These experiences will make you a better professional in the future as you work with students and try to relate to their lives.

It will be hard when those around you are taking weekend trips and going to exotic places for break, while you are just trying to make enough money to put food on the table. You will work countless campus jobs, and this is where you will meet some really great people. But also know Rector Funds can help with that class ring you’ll eye in your junior year. I wish I could tell you it won’t always be this way but Notre Dame is expensive and the decision to come here will impact you far after graduation. You are lucky enough to have a family who will do what they can to support you as you establish yourself. And, hopefully, one day, you will be able to pay them back. I have faith that will happen.

 Hate has its limitations. You will feel it but do not succumb to it. People are the sum of their experiences and yours just looks different from others. Focus on education, on being the outlier to their stereotypes and opening their minds in the process.

Hope is a better use of your energy. The presidential election of 2008 will bring hope for the country. In your personal life, find hope in the small things.   As you walk down South Quad, look up to that shinning Dome and remember the huge role Mary played in the faith of Abuelito and dad. Remember the tears in dad’s eyes when he saw Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Basilica because he knew she would take care of you and she will, just remember to visit her occasionally.

There will be days when this seems like too much to handle – like this is not the place for you. But this will also be the place that makes you who you are. You will find your best friends here. You will find your passions here. You will find that dreams you have been chasing are not necessarily right for you. You will question everything. And in four years, you will look back and be so proud at everything you accomplished – so beyond prepared for everything the world might throw at you. And you will come to realize, you were meant to be here all along.

 All my love,

Your future self

 

Renteria, A. (2016). Dear Ashleigh. In J. Kang & I. Tembe (Eds.), A letter to my freshman self: Domers reflect on their undergraduate experience (pp. 41-43). Notre Dame, IN: Corby Publishing.

Orlando, Part 2

Ashleigh’s wonderful Part 1.

I have been inputing, inputing, inputing all day–articles, Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, videos–about the hate crime by mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando on Sunday morning. My mind has been a series of sound bites and likes of other people’s thoughts, as I am still processing and piecing together the bits in my head, and I will still be thinking about it and have new thoughts for the next God knows how long. I say this, because every paragraph from here on out is just a series of jumbled thoughts in my head, connected only by immense sorrow and anger at the systems that have brought us to this point.

49 people died, over 50 people were injured. Here is a list of the victims who have been identified so far. Everything hurts and I hate everything, and while that might not be an eloquent way to frame a mass tragedy, those are the feels right now.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been trying to push the personal narrative in my head away from “I was just at Noche Latina at Neighbors.” My thought process: this isn’t about me, I need to keep the 49 victims and their family in center of my mind.  But I think it’s important to acknowledge that WE WERE THERE, in the same space, different state. Literally, I was at a Latin Night, at a queer bar, celebrating my queer Latix friends, one week ago. Saying and processing this is scary, because this tragedy did not happen in a vacuum; it’s a product of our transphobic, homophobic, racist  environment that exists everywhere in the United States, from Orlando to Seattle. It IS about me, not me so much as an individual, but me as part of a larger community of queer brown folks of color. Anything we do is a radical act, and nothing guarantees our safety.

I also had a realization at morning that the Pulse shooting will be in the history books (please let it be in the history books, please don’t erase this). In 10, 15, 20 years, future children will be learning about the largest American shooting since Wounded Knee or the Tulsa Massacre. At that point, will we be at a better place? It’s a lie to say my little brain can’t even comprehend that answer, because I know the answer is, tragically, probably not.

My heart especially goes out to queer and trans Muslim individuals. Our society–certain queer communities included–”understands” intersectionality on an infuriating superficial level: we can often times define it, but rarely remember to put it into practice. So I know in white-dominated LGBTQ spaces, Islamophobia may be prevalent right now, without any regard how trans and queer Muslims and other trans and queer individuals of color are feeling. In the ways that you can, take care of yourself, and may you or an ally have the strength to clapback at ignorance if it is hurled your way. More importantly: if you’re in the dominant identities in spaces, check yourself.

Much of the media refused to describe Pulse as a queer bar. I am not surprised. Do better. Say what is going on, call this what it is: a hate crime. This happened at a queer bar during Latin Night. The majority, if not all, of the victims are queer Latinx individuals. Do not ignore the complexities, the isms, of what is happening.

I refuse to acknowledge…well, first and foremost, Donald Goddamn J. Trump, and his fuckery over “being right” about “radical Islamic terrorism,” Jesus Christ. But also a number of politicians who have tweeted and expressed their condolences. Because a) your refusal to recognize trans and queer lives, your drive to create and push bill after anti-LGBTQ bill, has created this hate. And b) so many more of these politicians received funding from the NRA and/or voted against assault weapon ban bills. For a more info on this, @igorvolsky’s Twitter feed right now has some pretty rage-inducing read receipts.

“Our culture and institutions like the media, like education, like prison, have actually been complicit in this attack, and are complicit in the ways that our bodies are put at risk every single day.”  Bea Esperanza Fonseca said this earlier in a response video featuring trans and queer Latinx community leaders. This is the saddest and wisest thing. Because this is the truth. Hate did not suddenly wake up at 2 a.m. on June 12 in Orlando. It was born a long time ago. It has been bred in these stupid anti-LGBTQ that are official and very real ways of denying people their freedoms because: bigotry. It’s been bred in constant physical and emotional attacks toward queer people. It’s been bred out of churches and religions and rhetoric that condone queer folks (and before we start with the Islamophobia and blaming all Muslims, please see paragraph five, and remember that the Christian religion is far from blameless)  This has been a long time coming, and I say this not in a weird oracle-y or insensitive way, but as someone who has seen firsthand and learned and read about acts of violence toward trans and queer people, especially trans and queer individuals of color. This is not an isolated incident. Oh my god, this was never an isolated incident. This hate has been created by our institutional systems–political and religious and educational and criminal and etc etc etc, and in my current rage and sorrow and frustration at this, all I can say at this point is Stop. Killing us.

That’s all I have. I’m tired and angry and numb and explosive and saddened and just insert all of the emotions here. If anyone has some tangible action steps, or has more points to elaborate on these points, let me know.