Have you ever experienced discrimination on campus because of your race? Have you ever had to second-guess the choice to hold your partner’s hand around campus? Some students have probably never even been asked this question before. Yet for a third year student, Tayla Finney, it’s something she deals with not only on and off campus, but also within herself.
“Being black, queer, and a woman is a struggle within myself. I can say my freshman year was a lot worse than my second year. My second year I had discovered the Pride Center and the Women’s Center, so I could be myself in the centers. I could be lovey dovey with my partner in the centers but not really outside. Like when Jerrica walks me to class I make sure that she drops me off two doors away from my class just so my fellow classmates will not look at me differently. But I do realize that when I am in public that I cannot hold my partner’s hand as much.”
Many times when people are privileged, we tend to not think about the identities that are oppressed. We are blinded by the “privilege lens,” which Chanel Bradley describes by saying “A privileged lens makes oppression invisible. When a person is heterosexual, they never question whether it’s okay to hold your partners hand or kiss them in general. Yet for people in the LGBTQ community is always on their mind, and only knowing that there are only a certain amount of safe spaces on campus for them to be themselves just shows that the privileged lens only normalizes their own views. Normalizing the privileged views can only lead to people not understanding oppression.”
When talking about the privilege lens, it is not only for heterosexual people but also for people who experience privilege regardless. Many people who experience privilege in race tend not to see life the way three students (Chanel Bradley, Edward Abao, and Beatry Huston III) of color see life:
“It is a different experience because I am racially ambiguous, so even though people can’t readily figure out what I am, they know that I am black. They go ‘Oh you are black and something else.’ Like I am easier on the eye, so I am able to pass in certain spaces but most of the challenges are in academia. I feel like I am represented for a week, especially in my Women Studies classes, which saddens me the most. So I constantly feel as though my thought process is too radical or too different so I am always questioning how I will be perceived. It’s kind of frustrating; I wish I could just talk about what is present in my life and what’s going on in my life every day. Like when it comes to Christianity, I can only talk about it to certain people. When it comes to race, I can only talk about it to certain people, etc. So, it’s just frustrating that I am always the one that’s too much, too offended, too black, too… fill in the blank. Even though as much as it is a daily challenge because I am always evaluating the space, and I feel like I am the only one doing it, how different my input is when I know that there is at least one person I will be able to talk to about the world.”
“It feels in a way like I’m under represented, we need more diversity. Not just Filipino but of all races.”
“I feel like I belong, however I don’t see enough people that look like me. I feel like I matter but if there were more fellow brothers to share this experience with, it would make our experience at CSUSM more valuable.”
Many times, as students, we go around not knowing the different stories and perspectives of other students. Yet if we stop and listen to the different voices that make up Cal State San Marcos, we will be surprised that society has set up people to fit within certain boxes according to gender, race, sexual orientation, size, and class. If we do not fit within the boxes designed for us, we are made to feel like the outsiders, that we do not belong or that our voices do not matter. No one will ever fit within these set up categories, which makes us all different. Being unique should never be punished, so next time you have a conversation with a person who may be of a different race or sexual orientation ask them what it feels like to be them for once instead of instantly judging them. Take off the privilege lens and truly experience life.