In the midst of everything going on nowadays, it almost feels like the world is going to collapse on its side. I don’t remember a time in my life when there was this much tension with race, cops, and the civilians of the United States; Not saying there never was. With the power of social media, everything has change. Stories and opinions surface the area so fast, it’s almost as if the word racism has been misconstrued. White cops shooting black people, white privilege, and so on. You can name the rest if you want.
But as an Asian-American, I would have to say up until college, I was oblivious to the idea of me being just another student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Yeah, growing up in a low-income family and neighborhood, it was difficult. I dealt with the basic Ching-Chong, squinty eyes, and it was all normal. Whether it was a white or black person calling me those names, we just ignored it. We moved on, maybe started some fights, but we were young.
When I reached high school, I still received the same treatment, but it was mostly from the African-American population. Sitting at lunch with my friends, neighboring the African-Americans and having them throw food at us and call us derogatory names. This was freshman year. I mean, we didn’t do anything, but wanting to sit down and eat in peace. Say whatever you want, but could you imagine this happening to you on a day to day basis? Yeah, that’s how I felt. Even though it may have been an annoying year, we just shrugged it off. Instead, we moved on and continue our high school lives.
As I graduated from Madison East High School, I planned to never look back at the things that might’ve pissed me off or irritated me. Instead, I sought college as an outlet to gain new experiences and learn new things. I came into college with a foundation that it was going to be hard, but that everyone was going to be nice and sweet to each other. It wasn’t long till I realized how important diversity was to one another coming from a similar background as me. Low income, first-generation, or underrepresented/minority student was what I identified myself as.
I went through a seven week program housed with students that carried the same characteristics. I lived on the Multicultural Learning Center (MLC) floor in my dorm with them. I learned to become open-minded, something my high school didn’t prep me for. However, when I stepped off the MLC, it felt like a hostile environment. My Hmong friends who lived on the 4th floor of Tower A were mainly surrounded by white students; Students who I would later go on to despise as the year progressed.
We liked our Hmong food. We liked our rice and during the semester, my two Hmong friends were continuously harassed by the students on the floor. The smell of rice was strong, and it lingered into the hallways when it was cooking, but at no time did they pose a threat to the other students on the floor. At one point, my friends had a sticky note on their door saying something in the context of “If you don’t quit making your Asian food, we’re going to make sure you get kicked out the dorm.” It’s been a while so I don’t exactly remember what it said, but it’s funny because their next door neighbor was always smoking weed (tell me about it).
For weeks, they were harassed. One time I went to their room and I was looking through the peephole to see if anyone were going to continuously harass them and I could see the RA walking back and forth, back and forth, and then she even had the audacity to knock on the door and say, “Hey, is this your box at your door?” just so she could take a peek into their room. She even thought we were cooking rabbits when we told her it was rice. Way to be a sneaky and judgmental RA. What made me mad is that she was a P.E.O.P.L.E. Scholar, but didn’t act like one. All I saw was a RA who abused the color of her skin (white) and power to perhaps find a reason to rid of some students who only wanted to feel welcomed.
After that day, I tried my best to never go back up there. As a college student who was 18 years old, I couldn’t believe it. That very moment changed the way I perceived certain white students. Not that I don’t think their all bad, but there are some out there. Up until that moment, I never really valued how important it was for me to have lived on the MLC or diversify environments. Maybe it wasn’t like this on other floors, but to have gone through and experience this moment, it really changed the way I felt about race.
By no means am I saying that white people are bad because of my college experience or that black people are bad because of my high school experience, but I think that sometimes there is much more to a group of people that we should appreciate the things to come. For that, I am grateful to be surrounded by so many underrepresented students on this campus that can relate and share the same stories that may go untold.