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Notre Dame and my identity crisis

| Wednesday, February 19, 2014

My friends back home still call me “white-washed” because I speak English without an accent and my skin tone is lighter than the coffee I drank this morning. I checked “white” in every application and standardized test I filled out until high school, because that was the closest thing I could relate to. I was never Mexican enough because of the opinions of what my peers deemed acceptable. When I visited friends’ houses, I would be offered a sandwich instead of the carne asada their moms made for dinner. I wanted to be accepted and to be just another Mexican. But at the same time, I rejected and feared the stigma of being Mexican. My life is a constant identity crisis. And after interacting with other PoC (People of Color) at Notre Dame, I have come to realize I am not an anomaly, and the “identity crisis” I face (somewhat a hyperbole) is not all that unique.

A high school mentor and teacher of mine both recommended I used my mother’s Hispanic last name for college applications because it would give me the upper hand. It sounded logical coming from those with a lot of authority in the matter, but it was never really who I was. Throughout high school, I was referred to as an inner-city student because the high school I attended was in the middle of the “ghetto” and nearly half of my peers live below the poverty line. My best friends were first generation citizens, some of them even born in Mexico. Even though I never really identified as Hispanic until high school — or Latino until college — I was always considered a person of color, another statistic as far as my high school was concerned. Throughout my educational career, from kindergarten to high school, people who knew more than I did told me who I was and tried to label me as different until I began to believe it.

It’s absurd that silly labels determine how somebody feels about him or herself because society places specific identifiers by race and ethnicity. There’s a reason why ethnic parents constantly have to reinforce a sense of racial pride in their children. It is because society instills the idea that darker skin means inferiority. Even in the Latino community, darker skin is stigmatized and considered lesser by many of those of Spanish descent. Yes, Mexicans are terribly racist and prejudiced as well.

The point is, I didn’t care about race or ethnicity until I came to Notre Dame. As crazy as it sounds, blatant racism and prejudice were never a problem I have ever faced until I came here. I was content living my life as a Californian, where everybody is equally as accepting as one another. As vainly naïve as that sounds, Californians are all around accepting people, with the exception of our flourishing black sheep KKK population. There is knowledge as how to be culturally sensitive and interact with those of different creeds, genders and ethnicities without being raging racists or sexists, or whatever prejudice labels exist. I must reiterate, however, that there is a large population of Californians that do not fit the typical form. However, they remain a minority as far as I can tell. As I try to figure out the root of my aggressiveness in pursuing race relations at Notre Dame, it comes down to the people I am forced to interact with in my classes and activities everyday.

More often than not, I have found there to be more of a disconnection between those from the Midwest and inland states than those of the coastal areas and southern states. As a general observation, I have found them to have a more difficult time interacting with people of color, making them appear less culturally sensitive and more ignorant on ethnic issues. I am not trying to be stereotypical or assuming. This has merely been an overwhelming observation.

I am not quite sure why my articles still continue to get a rise out of members of the student body. At any other university my writings would be deemed tame at the most. Why do I feel like I’m in a scene of “Don’t Be a Menace to South Central L.A.” and a sniper is about to take me out any second for trying to “make it out of the hood?” I for one would love to live in a world where my opinion is not deemed invalid because another person is less educated about the struggles of minority communities. I don’t expect anybody to understand my life, only that they accept that these are my views and they are valid views, just as vapid, biased rebuttals are valid in their own sense.

As a “well-spoken token” friend of mine stated recently, “Not everybody was raised like I was,” and I need to understand that many individuals were raised in households where they are told that the opinions of people of color are fueled by a bitter past, when in reality they are fueled by an ignorant present.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Katrina Linden

Katrina Linden is a sophomore English and Latino Studies major living in Lewis Hall.

Contact Katrina
  • Juan

    Your writing is criticized because you repeatedly make racist statements. People have been explicit about this and you’re still not getting it.

  • Johnny Whichard

    You can’t be a champion against racism and discrimination when you generalize other people constantly. I’m glad we agree on one thing though: California is an amazing melting pot of accepting people just as they are.

  • Your Average ND Student

    You go to a largely conservative, predominantly white university, and make statements that are offensive to those not holding liberal viewpoint, and generalize Caucasians as racists, bigots, and perpetuators of stereotypes. At other schools that are strongly liberal and have a much larger non-white student body, people might not call you out on that because your beliefs don’t directly offend them. But that doesn’t mean what you’re saying in all your articles isn’t still offensive. I’m a white Republican, who thinks that this campus still has a long way to go in being inclusive towards people who don’t fit archetype of the ultra-conservative, ultra-Catholic Notre Dame student. Does that mean by virtue of my ethnicity and my voting record that you can group me together with people who actively spew hate and ignorance on a regular basis? Racism is a real issue at Notre Dame that needs to be addressed among the student body, but you take all the wrong ways to doing that. Two wrongs do not make a right. You can’t fight hate with hate, and your ignorance will not cancel out the ignorance of other. TL;DR, please think and be more sensitive before you write articles in which you stereotype a whole group of unique individuals as a bunch of ignorant cretins.

  • Johnny Whichard

    Katrina claims to be a victim of racism constantly because of her own “identity crisis”. A girl who demands white people view her as special because she is white and Mexican and continues to demonize white people. I think most readers are left with the question: WHAT DO YOU WANT? You either want to be viewed as a special victim or as a human being. Color blind people like me want to view you as an individual based on your own merits, but you insist I acknowledge your own self-struggles of being a hybrid. Join the club Katrina. I have a mixed background…but I don’t write letter after letter about it and generalize other people. I leave the “race box” blank on applications, maybe you should, too. You either WANT people to view you based on your appearance, or YOU DON’T. Make up your mind….that’s your true identity crisis. Anybody who fills in an ethnicity box on an application rather than “prefer not to respond” is looking for an alternative than “I am me. Here is what I have done with my life”. Race has NOTHING to do with socio-economic status. There are poor white people, too. But let’s forget about poor white kids, since it is convenient, right?

  • Johnny Whichard

    PS: “Mexicans are racist”…are you kidding me? I have yet to actually meet a racist Mexican….are you looking in a mirror?

  • Anonymous

    Nothing’s more pathetic than seeing a student wallowing around in her own pettiness; especially given the boundless amounts of opportunity given, she still finds a way to complain about systems already in place to assist her underachieving self. If you’re going to make issues about something like your “identity crisis”, reality check, life is a lot harder than that. Maybe if you wasted less time pondering your microcephalic issues, you might be able to do something with your life instead of waste space.

  • Johnny Football

    Well shucks. Please forgive us podunk Midwesterners. We just weren’t never learned no better. I’m happy you folks from the great state of Cal-ee-for-nye-ay can be such a guiding light of peace and acceptance. Hyuck hyuck.

  • GTFO

    You spew racism in your previous articles. Why else do you think many feel you lack credibility…

  • Gabriel Orlet

    I think Ms. Linden needs to take a step back and consider the implications of her words and statements before publishing these columns. Many of her arguments, while well-meaning, fall back on the kind of generalizations that she claims to be fighting. I don’t understand where her assumption that Midwesterners have an inherent difficulty with understanding race issues comes from, and I’m not even sure why she brought it up.

    I, and it looks like I’m not the only one, have noticed this kind of fast-and-loose rhetoric in many of her articles. I’m starting wonder if The Observer needs to institute a crash course in rhetoric for its columnists.

  • ThisIsWhatUSoundLike

    “Waaah, my upbringing was too stable and privileged, so when I became a boring, unfulfilled adult, I was unable to blame a difficult childhood for my shortcomings, so I suddenly, desperately started trying to identify as a “PoC”, so I could have a sense of purpose AND something to blame all my failures on”