“Anybody can be a victim, and anybody can be a perpetrator,” said Andrew Hansen, a Yuba College freshman, during the most recent installment of the Crossing Borders/Building Bridges series. This two-part segment focused on racism on campus, the effects it has on various cultures in America and even touched on experiences students have had on campus. The mood was heavy, but many people in attendance were open-minded and accepting of the student panel of speakers. During the sessions, students spoke out about the various forms of racism that affect or bother them. Soloni Taumalolo, who is of Pacific island descent, spoke of his frustrations when people often refer to him as being black. “Every colored person is not black; every Asian person isn’t Japanese or Korean,” he pointed out. Taumalolo also expressed his feelings on the existence of racism, mainly focusing on people who are ignorant about it. He stated, “There will always be racism. There will always be someone ignorant who won’t learn about other people’s cultures. That is why racism exists.”
Discussions erupted near the end of the second session, with time allotted for members of the audience to ask questions, speak about their feelings and present possible solutions for ending racism. A main idea that was continuously pointed out by both panel members and the audience alike was simply to “be educated, and educate others” regarding different cultures.
In confronting his stand on racism after he had been discriminated against for being African-American, student Korel Robinson stated, “Living in ignorance is punishment enough. The better thing to do is just to educate myself and hope others do too.”
The student panel, consisting of approximately 10 students from various speech classes, did their best to answer questions presented to them, and were very open in sharing their own feelings and personal stories about racism.
Sisters Lizneth and Eddy Garay spoke of the troubles in their native country, El Salvador, and both made statements about ending war in that country, but they also spoke of the discrimination they faced in Mexico and in America, when their family fled to seek refuge from the fighting. Lizneth pointed out that 32 different countries in Latin America speak Spanish. Despite the fact that so many people all around her spoke the same language, during her experiences when switching to different schools in Mexico and later in America, she said, “I got picked on a lot. Mexican kids would make fun of my accent because it was different from theirs.”
At Yuba College, many feel there are some wonderful outlets for obtaining knowledge on other cultures. Some pointed out that because of the diversity of the campus, it is very easy to find a wide range of different ethnicities, religions, and cultures in every class a person takes. The library carries a variety of materials and information on many different cultures. In obtaining knowledge in a classroom setting, student Wendy Cooper said, “There are a lot of classes here that are very helpful.” She added, “If we educate ourselves, it is our responsibility to pass it on.”
During the question-and-answer period, one student remarked that the sessions had identified problems, but wondered what bridges were being built by the discussions. In response to this, organizer and speech professor Neelam Canto-Lugo ended the panel by saying, “You are all here today; therefore, you have all taken the first step. You sat here, and you listened. You are the ones who are beginning to build the bridge. Thank you for listening because that is where we start.”