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Coming up short

| Tuesday, April 23, 2013

While working on an uninspiring paper for my philosophy class recently, I overheard an extremely upsetting conversation. I wasn’t really listening at first, but as the number of blatantly racist comments increased in frequency and severity, I just couldn’t focus on my work anymore. At one point, someone said, “I hate Mexicans. I didn’t have a problem before I came to Saint Mary’s College, but then you go to the mall and there are (expletive) hundreds of them, and it’s like ‘(expletive) you.'”

Did I really just hear that? I was tempted to butt in with: “I feel your pain. I never had a problem with white people before I was born in the Midwest of the United States, but it’s just so annoying how we’re everywhere!”

In the 9 months that I have been a student at SMC, I have either heard about or encountered first-hand more instances of prejudice than I ever had before. Perhaps I just didn’t have enough exposure previously, or maybe I’m just more aware now, but whatever the case, one thing is clear: This is absolutely unacceptable. I came to SMC believing the communities here and at Notre Dame were welcoming and enlightened. And while there are a substantial number of people who fulfill these expectations, I have been sorely disappointed with how often I have witnessed the opposite.

More so, I am disappointed with myself. I am disappointed I haven’t had the courage to say something, despite clearly not being a part of the conversation. I’m not a confrontational person and even have a tendency to choke in friendly social encounters, but that’s no excuse. The disappointment I feel when I don’t speak out is worse than the anxiety. I can’t justify my lack of action by saying it’s none of my business. Fighting oppression is everyone’s business, and if we’re not standing up, we aren’t doing our jobs. So, I’m going to challenge myself. Next time I encounter another instance like this, I’m going to speak out. I ask you do the same.

Angela Bird


Holy Cross Hall

April 23