Opinion: An open letter to the marginalized student body

Amanda Paniagua is a graduate art history major. Contact her at azabudsk@kent.edu

Amanda Paniagua is a graduate art history major. Contact her at [email protected]

Amanda Paniagua

I do not share my personal experience for myself, but for every single marginalized student or faculty member on campus who has been made to feel uncomfortable moving in public space because they too have realized that the heart of Kent State is not exactly friendly to diversity.

I overheard a conversation that may have been intended to be innocent in the Undergraduate Student Government office but language is anything but innocent these days.

While two students discussed major crime capitals, one thought it appropriate to refer to places as “black cities” while one thought it even more appropriate to include specific locations as crime capitals because they had Hispanics living there.

Let me introduce you to Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Last week, he was shot and killed while fleeing police in Pasco, Washington in broad daylight in front of several witnesses. He was from Mexico and had been living in the U.S. for 10 years. 

His murder was weighing heavy on my heart when I dared to speak up and inform these students that their comments were hurtful. I was met with a quick apology and I would like to publicly state, I do not accept this apology.

As a society, we have grown too accustomed to, “I’m sorry,” being able to put out fires when it only takes away the responsibility to find out why the fire was started in the first place. 

This happened on the eve of the campus-wide vigil organized to honor students Deah, Razan and Yusor who were murdered just a day after Antonio. It was the same implicit bias that claimed all four lives; the bias that disconnects an entire religious or ethnic group from their humanity and transforms them into data and statistics to then pathologize their behavior and existence in the media and in language which then justifies (or silences) their murders in public spaces.

The same student who made the “Hispanic” comment eventually justified their language by informing me that they are a criminal justice major.

This was suppose to assure me that they were qualified to make such nonchalant observations but credentials and titles mean very little to me and do not justify the language of ignorance.

This criminal justice major is a future cog in the wheel of a justice system that has resulted in so many unjust murders of unarmed citizens in this country with no indictments of police officers. If they are not being challenged on their language of implicit bias now, what can we expect from them in the future?

You may be familiar with the phrase, “black and brown lives matter,” but I must tell you that after overhearing that conversation, I was filled with anxiety, sadness and a sense that my life (or at the very least where I come from) doesn’t matter on the university campus. 

I know that I am not alone and neither are you. We must be daring enough to speak out. I will not be quiet and you shouldn’t have to either.

Contact Amanda Paniagua [email protected]