This week, I struggled with deciding on a topic for this editorial. Everything that came to mind felt intense or personal. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot to be said – but I find that I am censoring myself out of protecting other people’s comfort.I wish that I could take these editorials as an opportunity to write a pretty little piece on something light and beautiful. As a first-generation Latina college student, I am finding that this is impossible.
I am constantly aware of the influence that comes with serving as an executive editor. I have control over whose voices get heard, so I try to make it a point to highlight diverse and hidden perspectives. To an extent, I control how the narrative of this moment in time will be perceived in the present and past.
The most common piece of writing advice you will get is to write what you know best. But what if what I know best isn’t inspirational or palatable?
My reality does not allow me to comfortably use this platform for anything other than calling out discrepancies. While looking at previous editorials on the Record’s website, I couldn’t help but notice the times my white predecessors wrote about light-hearted and borderline superficial things.
Their realities mean that those are the topics they will write about naturally. Many of them don’t have to worry about being a first-generation college student, microaggressions and the daily occurrences that are a part of my reality.
The fact that the Record’s audience is primarily older white Mennonites adds another layer of complexity to my sentiment.
In general, people of color are not given the opportunity or comfort to take up space.
For example, in classes, I refrain from raising my hand. As for the times that I muster up enough courage to do so, I have what I want to say perfectly scripted out in my mind.
Nonetheless, I get flustered when I feel everyone’s eyes on me and nothing comes out the way I wanted.
This is especially true when the classroom is made up of a white majority. The self-imposed pressure to say something brilliant and serve to prove that people of color are more than capable and belong is an unfair burden.
It’s more than taking up space with my words – it’s physical too. Walking on the sidewalk, I will move out of the way to accommodate white people and have noticed they won’t do the same. Almost as if they don’t see me. Many of them will also take up the entire walkway, bumping into me, because they don’t seem afraid to occupy even the smallest of spaces.
So in this rare instance, I have encountered as an executive editor, I find myself paralyzed with the responsibility. I have this space to be filled and I am left debating whether to write what I can write about or what I wish to write about. I put so much pressure on myself to feel like I need to write something original, thought provoking or insightful.
And one might wonder – why is she making such a big deal out of an editorial she writes every other week for a small college newspaper?
Because it is a big deal. The vast majority of Record editors have been white.
It’s funny considering that I won’t hesitate to encourage others to step out of their comfort zones, but I can’t extend this same advice to myself. Maybe for my next editorial, I’ll write about what I need to say for the sake of myself and other people of color, rather than cater to a white world.