For my dear friend Romain, who showed me the importance of understanding and will. This spotlight is yours.
Based on Actual Events
Whenever I reflect on my old life as a college student in El Cajon, California. I am temporarily overcome by a sensation of innocence and freedom. Which soon becomes overshadowed by painful and disturbing memories of being persecuted over something that was never true to begin with. Growing up I always knew that there were prejudice and ignorant behaviors present in society and what not, but to witness it upfront and personal was really an eye-opening experience of the dangers that lurked in El Cajon and around the globe as well.
Child Development Center at my former college, where I first experienced racial prejudice in the area.
First Fires in exposure to Ignorance
I remember in one of my first child development classes, my teacher had us students introduce ourselves to the class by stating our ethnicities to everyone around us for whatever reason. As my turn had arrived to speak, I remember her clearly saying to me before even speaking, “What are you just Mexican?” in a derisive tone. Which in turn, I responded sarcastically to make a point by saying that I was Belgian and German.
With that response at hand, she had snickered immaturely and looked at the rest of the class with a disparaging expression. While responding by saying “I do not know about that, you have to be something more too, what about your father”? With I being a naive twenty twenty-year-old boy at the time, I had decided to answer her by saying that “I had never known my father and he was never present at any point of my life”.
Background Incident of crudeness
Furthermore, only for her to shrug her shoulders and initiate the entire class to laugh at me. After that, she tells the class “Well there you have it, just another Mexican in class”. As a result of her ignorance, I interrupted to correct her by saying that I was Belgian and German. In return, she came back at me by stating “Well they don’t really mix”! Followed by her raising her eyebrows at me in the most malicious way. Moreover, I can just remember all my classmates gazing at each other in shock with their mouths wide open. In response to the tension in the room that had heated to the maximum.
Reasoning in relation to disregard of others
I remember being so agitated and angry, I just wanted to burst out of that door and never return, but I could not do it because I did not want to give the teacher the satisfaction of having me run out of the class. Then I falling behind schedule on my much-anticipated path to graduation. Despite all the hostility in class, thankfully there was a decent classmate who somewhat vouched for me as she talked about her personal admixture in her family as she was of Mexican and German background.
Bewilderment and reflection of ignorance at hand
I feel like this experience was probably one of the most personal attacks I had ever faced as I still find myself from time-to-time reflecting on what I could have done differently to avoid and deescalate that situation. What makes it worse though is that it came from a “Teacher”. This was someone who was supposed to be a role model leader to students and know better. By being aware that behaviors and ideas like hers were wrong.
At the end of the day, she was no different than any other bully on the street or the type of people you see in the news when it came to Prejudice incidents and so forth. In truth, I am European being French. I am fair skinned, light haired, and light-eyed as well. So there really was no reason to attack me and to try to make any sense of why it happened will always be a mystery to me.
My former college quad area where I encountered the demented girl who nearly physically attacked me.
College years as a student in El Cajon
Throughout my years in college, I met with several incidents that related to the topic of prejudice and ignorance. Another instance that still haunts me to this day happened to occur when I was on my way home after seeing an academic counselor. The location from the counselor’s office to the bus stop on campus was very distant. So, I had to take the long route through a tunnel like hall to get to my destination. As I am texting my family of my soon arrival back home, I hear this loud voice echo repeatedly tremble in disgust. When I finally look up, I see this random girl with her eyes locked on to me, but with a really deranged expression like a rabid murderer.
Fronted with danger in the name of Ignorance.
While I continue to text and get closer to passing that demented girl in the hall, she continues giving dirty looks. Followed by suddenly trying to lunge towards me to attack. I remember that scene being so clearly suspenseful that I had my hand clutched tightly in my pocket preparing to use my pepper spray. As I could tell by her body language and demeanor that there was going to be a physical altercation. I had to be overall prepared to defend myself since for once I felt like I was in danger.
In turn, it only stopped though as she abruptly exclaimed, “Don’t even touch me” while I still managed to pass her gracefully still texting. Along with my other hand tightened to my pepper spray. With my composed behavior at hand, she snapped by shouting an offensive racial slur behind my back and would not stop watching me as I could still feel her presence. In addition to hearing her heavy breathing and seeing her convulsing uncontrollably from the corner of my eye.
State of Vagueness
As a result, I remember just feeling in a state of shock like someone had just punched my stomach with great force followed by my ears ringing uncontrollably. Again, I was more baffled than anything because I had never even seen this disturbed girl before and she was wrong in her actions. As I was not even the ethnicity, she believed me to be. Which ultimately all went back to the root of ignorance.
The former path I would take to reach my younger brother’s school and also where I encountered that toxic family who harrassed me.
Occurrences beyond campus
In addition, I found myself also confronted with biased behaviors and total ignorance, even in my personal life outside of the academic environment. For instance, doing something as simple as picking up my younger brother after school did I face prejudiced attitudes. While I am walking down the pavement towards the campus area where other guardians and parents wait to pick up their children. I encounter this random family that decides to attack me verbally and near physically as they try to intimidate and ultimately bring me down.
Ignorance in the streets
By getting close to my personal space, cursing, and telling me things like “What am I looking at”, laughing at me, and calling me repugnant slurs. The family consisted of a grandfather, adult daughter, grandson, and other adult family member. When I find myself coming closer to passing this family, I noticed the grandfather for whatever reason starting to lean awfully close to my face. While we stare at each other the whole way through the encounter, his adult daughter behind him starts telling the other adult relative “That was him, that was the “(offensive slur)”. Followed by the adult relative stating “How does he even have light hair if he is Mexican?”. As a result, the demented mother responds by saying “He must be mixed or something” and that “We should jump him”.
With that response at hand, the other adult relative was afraid of the thought as she mentioned “What if he knows martial arts?”. Only for the demented adult daughter to continue ranting disparaging comments about me and in all just being very stupid and immature. If I truly was the person she thought me to be, it was still inexcusable for her to be acting so hateful and nasty to me for no apparent reason. In turn, prejudice and ignorance can be more dangerous than anything if not properly discerned.
One of my former places of employment where I was faced with blatant racial prejudice.
Album of hate
Despite these intense cases as discussed above, there are a few other memorable mentions that occurred throughout my time as a college student in El Cajon. From being scorned by a taxi driver because of my name and distorted impression he had of me. To having a hiring manager in a job interview demean my professional experience only to later giving me bad looks with the addition of cursing and using ethnic slurs at me while escorting me out of his office. Then to top it off by slamming the door in my face before even getting to shake his hand and formally parting our own ways.
Denseness of ignorance
Next, would be encountering a random elderly woman at a department store in the mall. Who decides to harass me by muttering insults and using more revolting racial slurs. Only to later pursuing me throughout the store and getting really close to my personal space. Then puffing her chest up towards my face. Besides facing harassment in public, the toxic had followed me closer to home. As there was at least two different scenes that played out in the neighborhood I lived at. For example, one afternoon after class, I walk my usual path up a hill to arrive home. Only to have this random grey sedan drive suspiciously slowly as it heads towards my direction. Then suddenly hurl ethnic insults at me followed by him shouting “Yeah!” in a satisfied tone before speeding away and I having the chance to identify him.
Next would be in my apartment complex where two girls in a black SUV. Were acting disgusted with my presence at hand. With the addition of them yelling toxic profanities out of their window. With phrases like for me to “Hop back to whatever border you came from”! Stupidly though, I had overheard their conversation before crossing their path. On how I must have “Some European admixture” in me. Since my “Hair is light, and eyes are green”. In essence, my college years in El Cajon were quite a horror house in terms of my time spent there. At the same time, I gained more insight and understanding when it came to dealing with ignorance of prejudiced people.
Dangers of Illiteracy
Furthermore, returning to campus, I am faced with having ongoing issues. With a peer that kept staring at me the entire time as we passed each other in the stairway. Only for him to put me down by calling me additional ethnic slurs and laughing all uncontrollably. Then they continued to give me dirty looks as I continued on my rightful path to where I needed to be.
Likewise, I continued by encountering another mentally unhinged girl. Who happened to be in her car in the parking lot with her friend along the passenger seat. When I passed through their direction, she started talking bad about Mexican people loud enough for me to hear purposely. As she stated about my presence, “What is he even doing here? Shouldn’t he be cleaning gardens somewhere”? Followed by her friend trying to defuse the situation by attempting to quiet her down. Yet the manic girl continued her rant. By shouting in a shaky voice “I would cage all Mexicans in camps if I could”!!
Miscellaneous forms of Ignorance
Apart from these events that took place during my time as a student at Cuyamaca College in El Cajon. The matter of communication relating to people’s ignorance and prejudice really upset me. I remember at work a lot of customers and sometimes even coworkers trying to speak to me in Spanish. Although in a derogatory and overall unpleasant way. With phrases, and questions like “How do you say this in your language?”, “Comprende?”, “Excellente”, and “Si” in a presumptuous tone. Then with the fact of them expecting me to respond clearly. As if I knew the language when I really did not.
The road to the future as Autumn symbolizes a personal indication of rebirth, mystery, and excitement in my life.
Significance of breaking through ignorance
With all that said, my life in my late teens and early twenties was not as nice. As many would think. Especially for a young man who was already going through the strenuous process of growing up. I never knew what exactly I did to get the treatment I faced. However, it has taught me a great deal when it comes to standing up for myself. As I continue to evolve in character and learn from my experiences through others’ ignorance and prejudiced behaviors. Never had I encountered so much hate at any other point of my life. I have been ridiculed at school, in previous jobs, and even in my own neighborhood. Yet that has never stopped me from simply being me. Because I know who I truly am and where I stand as I see past through the fault of others’ ignorance and prejudiced perspectives.
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