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This September 15th marks the start of Latinx Heritage Month. It has made me reflect a lot on my journey exploring culture—the importance of it, and the ways I have had to defend it. When I came to Duke, I was so lost. It felt like nobody would ever understand the hardships I had to overcome to even get here. My freshman year, I was hardly involved with Mi Gente or any cultural organization for that matter. Then, I decided to take a chance and join the Political Committee in Mi Gente; for the first time, I did not feel alone. Joining gave me the confidence to speak Spanish, get connected with my roots, and express myself through culture. I was able to meet amazing Latinx leaders on campus who cared about the issues our community was facing. Mi Gente allowed me to find connections in a year where COVID made that especially hard. Cultural organizations, in general, are great touch points for marginalized students. However, more needs to be done for students outside their own labor. There are obstacles for Latinx students everywhere I look. Everyday, whether it be through extracurriculars or an academic environment, I saw my mentors, who are also Latinx students, be forced to defend their right to be here. My time at Duke has been very emblematic of this. Everyday, I fight for the right of students of color to exist on campus. I realized that expressing my culture was worthwhile, but I had to fight for my right to do that. The closer I came to traditional or dominant systems at Duke, the more issues I had with honoring my culture. Organizations like Mi Gente, where I was able to freely be myself and become grounded, sometimes feel completely antithetical to the systems in place at this university. Student activists must often sacrifice their mental health and overall college experience, spending time in hostile environments, for the sake of the students who come after them. That was true for my mentors and myself, and will be true for future students like us.
Recently I wrote a piece on the changes made to the Bryan Center, explaining how they would hurt various centers and their connections to students on campus. Well, students have now become acclimated to campus and returned to the various spaces in the Bryan Center they call home. Many people of color on campus recognized and explained that these changes would ultimately cause disruption amongst the spaces meant for marginalized groups. Despite this, upper level Duke administration, who seldom ever visit these spaces, decided to disrupt the lives of students and staff anyway. Now, I have to see a space that I was able to call home stripped away from the students who will come after me.
[Opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the organizations I serve.]
The Community Editorial Board’s (CEB) articles are full of inconsistent, oftentimes hypocritical viewpoints that do not represent the student body, and it is getting increasingly worse. The CEB used to stand for positions that are objectively good for the student body, such as criticizing Durham’s increase in violent immigrations and customs enforcement agents, and promoting union and labor efforts. Truly, this group was a force of good for the university to advocate for those who didn’t always have a voice or who the university administration chose to ignore. The CEB used to be a body who many thought would gladly stand by students who have demands and sometimes even demanded the university to do more for marginalized identities themselves. Lately, the CEB has stood in contrast to students' needs, even for movements with overwhelming support such as Disability and Ethnic Studies programs. Somehow along the way, their messaging has become undeniably inconsistent from the values it grew on.
Community Editorial Board argues that we have “lost our way in the liberal arts.” However, one major issue with their argument is they deem adding an ethnic studies department unrealistic and then use Program II to justify this statement. How can someone possibly make a Program II major in ethnic studies, when those classes don’t even exist at Duke? A fair amount of students have to go to UNC just to take courses pertaining to their identity, which is unfair as they simply wish to express and learn about their identity at their own school.
Political correctness (PC) and cancel culture are deeply intertwined in today’s political climate. Cancel culture is the act of ostracizing a group from social or economic activity because of unacceptable views, while political correctness is the changing of one’s rhetoric to promote inclusivity. These two terms have dominated conservative news networks for the last few years. Even recently, Ohio representative Jim Jordan has called a judiciary hearing to debate cancel culture's use of “political correctness” to “censor” the Right. However, this is an untrue and malicious use of these words to phrase inclusive social norms as extreme.
My father, a newfound citizen and immigrant from Mexico, voted for the first time this year. As the final ballots for Clayton County came in, I couldn’t believe my eyes as Georgia flipped for Joe Biden. Despite a presidential win, there was something else going on in Georgia, and it was historic. The two incumbent senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue did not reach the 50% threshold needed in the Georgia election to win. Georgia went into runoff mode as support came in from across the country to flip the senate. Working with local organizations, I began an aggressive and coordinated canvassing operation in my town that helped move my county seven points more Democratic than the general election. As I walked down the long, winding streets in my checkered vans, I knocked on every door I saw. Armed with masks, hand sanitizer and political literature, I registered dozens of voters. Due to the work of many organizations such as the New Georgia Project, Fair Fight, Poder Latinx, Black Voters Matter, Voto Latino and Asian Americans Advancing Justice, thousands of voters finally had a voice all across the state. Georgia flipped blue once again and went on to elect two Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, largely through first-time minority voters.
Years ago, my family had to fight US immigration offices tirelessly for my father’s chance to be a citizen. This was under the Obama administration whom many had championed as progressive for immigrants. My mom became a single mother for nearly a year all while juggling two children, lawyer fees, her undergraduate coursework, and a full-time job. She became a hero to me. As inspiring as that is, it makes me wonder why families even have to be separated in the first place. My father used to tell me the pain and struggle of what being undocumented looks like. He told me stories of fathers who had to watch their children grow up between the thin plastic slides of ICE detention centers. Without a lawyer, which most can’t afford, I likely wouldn’t have seen my father for decades. I like to think that maybe things will change, but change doesn’t come from inaction. To get the widespread change Americans deserve, and by Americans I mean all Americans, we need to hold this administration accountable.
Editor's Note: This story includes racial slurs and the discussion of police violence. Reader discretion is advised.