Quinn Fish is a journalism and ethnic studies senior and Mustang News Managing Print Editor. The reviews represented do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
I’m Quinn Augusta Fish and I’m a journalism and ethnic studies senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I am a white, cisgender, heterosexual, upper-middle class woman; most of which I knew nothing about before coming to Cal Poly. In the class structure that is America today, I exist in the second ring, just under white, cisgender, heterosexual men. Never in my life have I felt limited by any of my social identities nor have I experienced a stereotype, a profiling, or the loss of an opportunity. I carry more privilege than I will ever know.
I grew up in Alameda, California — an island off of Oakland — in a neighborhood where none of my neighbors looked like me. I didn’t think about my own race until I was eight or nine, when I realized my cousins didn’t look like me. My own parents, democratic Deadheads with college degrees, preached colorblindness, that all human beings are created equal. Though they’d never acknowledge it, in other words: All Lives Matter. It wasn’t until I came to Cal Poly that I started to grasp the power and all-encompassing properties of Whiteness. It was not until I came to San Luis Obispo that I heard the N-word — hard “r” — and since then, I have heard it only in San Luis Obispo, four or five times. It wasn’t until I came to San Luis Obispo that I heard Black people referred to not only as “Africans,” but as “colored people” on more than one occasion. I have heard professors explain “reverse racism” incorrectly, implying that it does, in fact, exist. I have seen professors time after time call on students of color for their input on issues that vaguely relate to their social identities. And all in all, I have seen students, staff and faculty act as inactive bystanders nine times out of 10.
In my time at Cal Poly, I have learned that racism thrives behind closed doors. With a population as wealthy and as white as the university is, it is no question why campus climate continues to exist in the way that it does. I’ve heard slurs and epithets and more racist jokes than I could ever have imagined hearing in the state of California. Though these problems are in no way unique to Cal Poly or San Luis Obispo in itself, they have a way of making themselves known here. It’s not always our fault we’ve grown up in a society that has not taught us any better, but ignorance is no excuse. To blame ignorance for acts of racism, transphobia, sexism, homophobia, ableism, is to put the burden on the educator; it is on us to educate ourselves.
These are the conversations that need to be had.
In my role as Managing Print Editor for Mustang News, I felt the responsibility to use the newspaper as a medium for this conversation. The conversation on unity, on white supremacy, on the reality of today’s climate, on using our voices to speak for those who have been silenced. As Cross Cultural Centers Lead Coordinator for Diversity Initiatives Beya Montero-Makekau reminded me, though this is the anniversary of a blatant racist incident on campus, every year is the anniversary of a racist incident that happened to someone on campus. Through all of the conversations that led to the production of this issue, I have learned so much, not only about campus and the issues that persist here, but about the resilience of those pushing day after day for the equity of everyone in the community, even those who do not look like them. Myself and the dedicated reporters who helped me put this issue together have spoken to so many students, staff and faculty members who do not have the privilege of feeling at home, or even safe, on campus. Those of us who are lucky enough to have found a place that treats us well are often blissfully unaware of how the very same campus treats others.
My advice for people who look like me: listen more than you speak. Use your voice to amplify those of others. Educate yourself with the tools provided to you. Take The Social Construction of Whiteness (ES 381) and Intergroup Dialogues (PSY 304). Take it upon yourself to be educated; it is no one’s responsibility but your own.