Individual or systemic, racism always matters.

Giselle Sanchez Huerta
Poughkeepsie, NY

Race is a concept that continues privilege, structural power, and inequitable distribution of resources based on phenotypes/ sets of observable characteristics. Race is a social construct, meaning that it was created through social interactions. Society and its people built the concept and continue to give it meaning. That is not to say that it is meaningless, because of the profound affects it has on social structure and interpersonal experiences. The concept of race shifts its boundaries throughout history to continually maintain structures of power on many levels. Racism is “a system of advantage based on race” (Tatum). This means that any action that does not fight the power dynamics and privileging of a certain race, is a racist act. By not fighting against racism, the power structure is reinforced.

Race and racism have played a big role in my life, as Latina womyn of indigenous and colonial ancestry. My initial exposures to racism let me see that in society, whiteness is centered and asserted as superior, and that continues to be true. Race plays a factor in who I surround myself with, never being with many white people at once. In institutions, I have seen racial projects as an effort to seem inclusive of students of color, but once here, I have noticed the lack of resources for our community. In that, institutional racism continues to push against cultivating leaders of color and pushes for white leadership. The centering of whiteness as dominant continues to show racism on individual and systemic levels. I continue to think about race in the spaces I try to build at Vassar, ones the celebrate our history and accentuate our voices.

 

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