I know you mean well.
I really do.
I know you feel an immense pressure to please the class majority. You don’t want to oppress a student’s freedom of speech; you want to create a safe-space for all.
However, how do you think I feel?
Do you think I’m fine with listening to students proclaiming their support to a man who has attacked me and my community?
The same man who has inspired an increase in hate crimes towards the Latinx community. The same man who has emboldened some to spit in my face and tell me to “go back to my country.”
I know you think of yourself as an ally to the Latinx community. However, your silence in class and your refusal to denounce this speech is a sign of cowardice. Pulling me aside and sharing your personal views with me does not change the fact that I feel threatened in your class; it does not change the fact that I walk in the room with fear that my existence will be questioned.
Professor, do you have any idea how it feels like to be a Latina on campus?
Do you think it’s comfortable knowing that many of your classmates are avid supporters of a man who has labeled me as a drug dealer, a criminal, and a rapist? Everytime I see a bright red hat, I hold my breath. My heartbeat accelerates as the hat grows closer; I sigh a breath of relief as the text reads anything but those dreaded words.
Do you think I don’t notice the weird looks I get when I speak my native language to my parents? Everyone else can call their parents anywhere and anytime they like with no worries, but I have to seclude myself just to avoid the awkward glances.
Do you think I like lying to my parents about my well-being? The same parents who came to this country with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The same parents who worked day and night in the hopes that they would have enough to provide for their families back home. The same parents who tried to help me with my homework although they couldn’t understand one word of it. The same parents who cried with joy when I got accepted to Washington and Lee.
How can I, their eldest daughter, admit to them that I feel so alone here when I know they are relying on my success? How can I tell them that I’m drowning and slowly losing my way? How can I tell them that I wished they were here for Parent’s Weekend knowing that they would be endangering themselves? How can I tell them that I’m dreading graduation, the day when everyone’s parents will be embracing their graduate while mine watch from a screen?
Tell me, professor, what do I tell them?
Do you think I like the back-handed compliments and unspoken responsibilities I get from classmates and you, professor? You are not uplifting me when you compliment me on my English. I am a member of the Latinx community, not its representative.
Now tell me again, Professor, how do you think I feel?
Wait… don’t tell me. Because if you truly knew, I wouldn't be writing this letter. Your class would be so different; it’d be so welcoming. But instead, your words are empty and your actions are inadequate. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are, I am hurt.