Prerna Aneja is a business administration sophomore and sports intern. The views reflected in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
The Attorney General may have cleared the students involved in the blackface incident that rocked Cal Poly’s campus, but the lasting effects and the school’ history of backlash against minority groups can’t be pushed under the rug as easily. It is a well-documented fact that Cal Poly is not representative of California’s rich diversity, which is how I found myself being a part of a minority group at Cal Poly.
I was raised in the Bay Area for the vast majority of my life, and was always part of the majority group. My parents raised my brother and me to not be ashamed of our ethnicity and to embrace it. Living in the Bay, I never had to hide or shy away from who I was as an Indian-American. At Cal Poly, it’s so easy to stand out in a crowd of white as a brown person. I was aware of the culture shock I was going to experience when I toured Cal Poly as an accepted student, but I never felt alienated because of the color of my skin until May 12 of last year.
Just a month after the blackface incident, the Lantern Festival was held, meant to celebrate all the cultures on campus; however, all the positivity from that event was overshadowed by one person. My friend and I were walking back to Cerro Vista from the festival and took the North Mountain shortcut. We were going over our performance and how I almost fell when a girl walked out from a room on the second floor of what I want to say was Palomar. With just one glance, I could tell this girl was definitely under the influence of something. She walked out the door, took a few steps across the walkway, turned, saw us and said, “Oh my gosh! Why are you guys dressed like the Teletubbies?” My friend, who was walking on the side closer to the girl, just froze, and I remember thinking, “No she didn’t.”
My friend, who had not yet experienced anything like this, was my main concern. I remember holding onto her shoulders and telling her to keep walking with me and that the girl was high and clearly didn’t know what she was saying. I don’t know what’s sadder: the fact that I ignored her comment and continued to walk home or that I, like countless others who have come before me, brushed the incident under the rug by excusing the girl’s behavior because she wasn’t in control of herself. That was a year ago.
My ex-roommates from this year were learning about Indian culture and would be watching the biggest movies and would ask me questions here and there. I don’t have any problems with that. I love talking about my culture, and it’s better for me to clear any concerns they may have before they offend anyone else, but I draw the line when it comes to the “are-you-actually-serious?” stuff. I walked into the apartment after class one night and they were watching a historical battle movie with a strong female lead. They asked a couple of questions that I answered to the best of my ability.
The next morning, I woke up to one of the songs from that movie. Being the only Indian person in the apartment, I checked my phone, even though it’s always on silent, to see if the song was a result of my YouTube spiral. It wasn’t. I checked my laptop and it was turned off. Thinking maybe it was my Bhangra dance teammate in the living room who wanted to grab some food, I walked out only to see that the apartment was empty. I walked towards my PCV single room, and as I crossed the bathroom half-asleep still, I realized the music was coming from the bathroom. I thought “What the hell?” and tried to go back to sleep thinking this was all a weird dream. Maybe 10 minutes later, one of my ex-roommates walked out, and I low-key lost it in my head. To give you all some context, the song was a battle prayer. I don’t know what she was trying to accomplish in the bathroom, but it definitely wasn’t deserving of blessings from the gods.
What I want to explain from these two personal examples is that conflicts will always arise due to differences in ethnicity. Some are minor conflicts, like not realizing the disrespect shown to my culture by playing a battle prayer song in the shower, or major conflicts like the stoned girl and her insensitive comment. Blackface will one day become a sad event in Cal Poly’s history, but racial and ethnic issues will always be a part of Cal Poly. That is something that can only be rectified by increasing Cal Poly’s diversity. According to CSU’s Fall 2018 data, Cal Poly is 54.4 percent white. Although ethnicity plays a small part in one’s identity, it is one of the most salient; I speak for myself, not the Indian community or other minority groups when I say this: I don’t want to be understood. I don’t want you to understand the inner workings of my ethnicity because I don’t completely either. I just want to be accepted for who I am. My ethnicity is just a part of me. The truth is, us minority groups are here to stay, so just accept it and move on.