I am from the Southside of Chicago. To be more specific, I grew up in Mckinley Park, which is 5 minutes away from Back of the Yards, 10 minutes away from Pilsen, and 10 minutes away from Little Village. I grew up in a Mexican household, and my parents are immigrants. All of this is to say that I grew up in a neighborhood where I regularly observed the glaring lack of resources essential to sustaining a community. I became more aware of these discrepancies during the pandemic. I got to see how much my community and the communities around me are in financial need, but I also saw education inequities.
When my first-year college experience was interrupted due to COVID, my eyes were open on how much the country is separated by income disparities. I’m furious at how society is split up because there are more resources available to those people who are white or are above a certain income line. When I went back home, my family and other families as well had to go to food pantries. I also saw how much my community was essential because they were really exposing themselves every day in the workplace so they can provide for their families. I would always think that those people who have enough money to support their families have it easier than my community because they can pay for the delivery of food. I remain deeply upset at how minority communities have such a lack of resources while people across town are living the dream.
I wish people could see the difference there is in the world and take action to address these inequalities. Statistics have shown that the people who are most affected by COVID are minorities, and this would be a reason why, since minority groups are exposing themselves to go to places that will be crowded like food banks. I also know that everyone in Olaf went through different experiences with the pandemic, but I just wish we, St. Olaf’s BIPOC students, could tell our stories and express our viewpoints. I sometimes feel that people really don’t care or don’t know how to respond when all I want to hear is, “WOW. I didn’t know that. It must have been hard for you. I think we should think of a way to communicate this problem and brainstorm a solution to help more people.” It’s sad to know in the U.S., BIPOC individuals and whites live in the same world, but two different universes at the same time. The white individuals might just think it’s just white/black but the world is more than just a simple yes or no. It frustrates me when thinking about this and the children and the families who are going through it worse than I am.
I think that being able to listen and understand is the first step, but the action step is to give everyone the same resources, so they have the same chance for a better lifestyle. I would like the broader St. Olaf community to recognize that not everyone has the luxury of going home and not worry about how they will help their family like providing food. It is a lot to handle as a college student while also having our minds clustered with problems at home. As a student, I find it relieving when a professor says that, “I understand that not everyone has the same experience and if you ever need modifications please let me know.” I wish the professors and staff of Olaf can pay more attention to BIPOC students because we are mostly the ones who have something going on, but don’t like to talk about our issues and feel alone throughout the journey. The Taylor Center for Equity and Inclusion should not be the only program on campus hosting these events to talk; I believe students, staff, and faculty at St. Olaf and elsewhere should be open to these important talks. This is the first step to the bigger picture of how we can all help out, like raising donations to try to help students and their families in need and doing community service activities that can help neighborhoods that also need these resources.