Invisible shades, struggles of HSU’s students of color

By Andrew Kwon
Flapjack Chronicle

Imagine a vast sea of salt, white crystals all laid out in front of you. Now imagine in a tiny pepper flake within the sea of salt. Very noticeable, it just doesn’t seem to fit in with all the other salt crystals. You could say that the salt crystals could relate to the majority of HSU’s student body, while the pepper flake being the sprinkled in students of color. According to Humboldt State fact book of 2011, over half of all undergraduate students of HSU are Caucasian 55 percent. With the largest minority group being Latino/ Hispanics who make up 21 percent of the total student population. The population of African American students making up 4 percent, Asian Americans making up 3 percent, Native Americans making up 1 percent, and those who are unidentified or of two or more races making up the remaining 16 percent. With the majority of the campus being predominantly white in both student and faculty, do students of color in HSU feel like part of the campus community or just a statistic, and does this effect how they perform in class?

“I don’t feel like being really part of the campus community,”says Wilmer Ayala, 19, psychology major. “Sure in some of the clubs that I’m in, but it feels like the reason why I feel like a part of the community within those organization and events, for example the Hola Puentes club, which is a club that mentors Latino students around the Humboldt community, is because it’s something that I can relate to.”

 “But in honesty, just the campus in general I sometimes feel like people just glare or look at me funny because of how I look. It’s not only on campus do students of color feel uncomfortable in, but in class as well.”

Tatiana Lucero Santibanez, 19, child development major shared her class experience.

“It’s hard trying to go talk with the professors because, I feel like they already have a preconceived notion of who I am because of how I look like to them,” Santbanez says.“I generally feel uncomfortable when it comes to talking out loud in class or to try and voice my opinions on a topic because it feels as though my opinions would not be seen as valid to the other students or even to the teacher.” 

“Everyone is driving for the same thing, however sometimes I feel like the white students have a step ahead of me because of my color,” Shaylani Iosefa, 20, recreation administration, a second year student of HSU, stated.

“You know, I kind of do feel affected in class because I get a sense of intimidation by the other none-minority students because, no matter how many times I do try to participate in class, it’s hard to get acknowledged unless I do something out of the ordinary,” Shaylani says. “I see it as a competition, you know.”

Maria Corral-Ribordy, an HSU lecturer on critical race, gender and sexuality, gave her opinion on this topic.

“Students of color arrive on campus, and when they encounter a community that’s predominately white, it doesn’t feel like a welcoming place and when you add to that, that their are some students who have some preconceived notions of those students of color, they will act upon those, consciously or not,” Corral-Ribordy said. “And in turn affect the performance of the students of color.”

But the student body is not the only component in which students of color might be effected within class, but the faculty and staff as well.

“Scarcity of staff of color, very few adults with whom they can make meaningful relationship, and those adults who understand them,” Corral-Ribordy said. “The capacity to find mentors are diminished, the curriculum is not inclusive of the experience of the people of color as a whole. The curriculum itself is focused on the needs of the dominant groups.”

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