Life as a black Hispanic student at UWO

Isaac Boiten, Columnist

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I am biracial. My mother is Hispanic and my father is black. When I was young, I was adopted along with my two brothers and my sister. This is my fourth year attending UW Oshkosh as an anthropology major.

UWO is a predominantly white university, as is the high school I graduated from.

During my freshman year of college, I lived in dorms. Dorm life for me was an important part of my college experience. I ended with an amazing roommate and met a lot of new people.

Along with meeting new people came many experiences. I met people from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds, but I noticed that, like me, many of the people who I met also graduated from predominantly white high schools.

Many people I met had little interaction with people of ethnic or cultural backgrounds other than their own and had only seen and learned about various ethnic and cultural backgrounds from social media, novels and movies.

Naturally, when people are introduced to something that they are unfamiliar with, there is discrimination to some degree. I’ve never personally had an experience where I felt as though I was intentionally being discriminated against because of my ethnic background, but I’ve had friends who have been intentionally discriminated against, especially in the dorms.

I’ve personally experienced microaggressions and witnessed them more often than not at UWO. A microaggression is a verbal or nonverbal action of discrimination that is either indirect, subtle or unintentional.

Saying statements such as “you dress,” “you talk,” “you look” or “you walk like a white person” to someone who is not white or of European descent is a microaggression.

Assuming that someone who is Mexican speaks Spanish, someone who is Native American speaks Navajo or someone who is African speaks Swahili is also a microaggression.

If someone assumes that another person’s nationality or ethnicity means they must listen to a certain kind of music or love a certain type of food is another form of a microaggression.

This being said, I think the root of this problem lies in lack of education. It can be difficult for a person who has grown up in a community of people that all share their ethnicity and cultural beliefs. It can be unsettling to have to engage with people who don’t share these similarities.

People should be educated about various cultures and how to interact with people who don’t necessarily share the same ethnic background as themselves.

At UWO, I see ethnic bubbles, people who share the same ethnic background only engaging with one another, all the time. I believe that if people were more educated on how to engage and communicate with people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, they would be able to break out of these ethnic bubbles.