By Renee Walker, Feb. 7, 2022
One day, I will teach my children that their name is not a playground full of letters to stumble over. I will teach them that their beauty is not contingent on pigment, but full of rich history and folk tales that breathe into the universe. I will teach them that the quieter the mouse, the more trouble he causes. They will understand that passive racism is just as uncomfortable as a silent car ride after an argument.
Passive racism is the fraternity I witnessed playing a “harmless” game of football near the BRIC while simultaneously singing a racial slur because to them it is simply lyrics in a song.
Why don’t we instruct our children about sly prejudice? We warn them of what to do in the most extreme dangers: stay low, hands on the dashboard, slow movements, ‘yes officer,’ and ‘no officer.’
Yet, what do we do when it is handed to us wrapped in a bow?
Cal Poly Pomona is the white woman who “adores” your skin tone. She tells you that, “you’re so well spoken,” or that your name is unique and “your mother is highly creative.”
When do we stop accepting passive racism as a present? It is gifted to us in a form of a compliment or a set of “preferences” that is supposed to make us rejoice that we are not like, the “other” Black people. I have never witnessed a bar so low that it finds solace in subtle racism being the baseline. Yet at least it is not slavery, right?
To first understand passive racism, we must understand its symptom: microaggressions. A microaggression as defined by Hahna Yoon, a freelance writer for The New York Times, as, “the everyday slights, indignities, put-downs and insults that members of marginalized groups experience in their day-to-day interactions.”
A day-to-day interaction at Cal Poly Pomona is the older woman who prefers your hair straight, over its luxurious kinks and curls. Cal Poly Pomona says phrases like, “the Blacks,” and “your style is so urban.”
Put it this way: a microaggression is a tiny rock in your shoe. It is bearable, a little painful, but annoying, nonetheless. Now imagine that every time you slide on your shoe there is a rock in it. Wouldn’t you become furious at the constant inconvenience? The consistent pain that shoots up your leg. Yet, we stuff and stifle our discomfort because this complaint is too small to cry about.
To the white student who shoulder-checked me while passing in front of Campus Center Marketplace, I am done stuffing and stifling.
I have experiences that will be heard and addressed.
Cal Poly Pomona is the white Registrar’s Office staff member who tossed my housing payment back to my mother and I, dared to muster all the hate she could gather in her voice and said, “count it.”
Cal Poly Pomona is side glances from white fraternities and sororities every time a Black individual is interested in joining them.
Cal Poly Pomona is every professor who targets a Black student because they are the only melanin in the room.
Cal Poly Pomona, the university which prides itself on diversity, is just as racist as any other institution. Let’s be honest, passive racism and microaggressions are concepts that will unfortunately continue far beyond us, but we can instruct our kids and families about it in hopes that our effort will slow the spread.
I will teach my children that sly prejudices are the most dangerous. I will teach them that burying their grievances can lead to the grave. They will know that microaggressions are the predecessor to crowded streets and protests. I will teach them to call out the institution that threatens their mental well-being and livelihood. Most importantly, I will teach them that passive racism is not a gift, no matter how pretty the wrapping is.
What will you teach those closest to you?
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