OPINION: Our cultures are not minor

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

Amanda Anastasia Paniagua

 I don’t like the word “minority.” It’s a misnomer that immediately creates a linguistic power structure. I love American comedian Hari Kondabolu’s take on this particular phenomenon. He understands the frustration that many of us who identify in marginalized communities encounter.

People use the word “minority” to categorize entirely separate, unique, cultural and ethnic backgrounds and experiences. We are often grouped together in catchall acronyms — even here at Kent State as though we are monolithic. This is not to suggest that there isn’t some semblance of understanding and support amongst marginalized students. However, I cannot speak for every marginalized student on campus (nor do I want to).

I can speak only of the personal frustrations I’ve encountered on campus.

I am a proud Latina (Mexicana). I recall an experience a couple years ago in the Rathskeller when I put money into the jukebox, made my selections and prepared to enjoy some various genres of Spanish-language music. My music began and before the first song I programmed could end, I heard the volume decrease significantly. When I inquired about why it had been turned down, I was told that someone had complained it was “too loud.” I could have accepted that reasoning if there hadn’t been jukebox music playing beforehand. It was hard to not feel very self-aware in that moment, but what use was it in complaining? My money was already spent.

I’m sure some of my readers are all too familiar with this self-aware feeling that causes the pit of your stomach to catch in your throat and makes your heart rate speed up.

Last October’s indie hit Dear White People satirized what it is like “being a black face in a white place.” While I am not black, I still empathized with Justin Simien’s interpretation of navigating an institution of higher learning while simultaneously occupying a marginalized identity. The film dared to address experiences that are often times underrepresented and rarely taken to be as ubiquitous as they actually are. These experiences, however, are not monolithic. They take a variety of forms whether it’s based around one’s language, one’s dress and, yes, even one’s skin tone.

Some of my readers might be tempted to suggest that there is no such problem here at Kent State, but I strongly challenge you to reconsider that position.

Only a day after students gathered to protest the non-indictment for the murder of Michael Brown, the same rock that had been spray painted black in an act of solidarity was vandalized with a swastika — right here at Kent State.

As an act of silencing, it was made very clear that elevating the voices of those who are marginalized here on campus and in the larger societal structure are not worth listening to.

Is that what “Excellence in Action” looks like? Whose university is this? I challenge all who read this to reconsider that perhaps the lens in which you’ve always viewed the world may not be the only lens that exists here at Kent State.