No, I’m Not Moving by Maribel

16 Oct 2019 1:36 PM

Guest Blogger Guest Blogger

Although Iowa State’s campus is not New York City, it can still be hectic making your way from one end of campus to another on any given day.

We’ve all had our share of experiences weaving through packed sidewalks on our way to our next class, or lunch, to our rooms, or any of the other dozens of places we as busy college students need to be. We all know the feeling of squeeeeeezing by a group of people along Osborn while hurrying to catch the next bus.

It can be rough out there, can’t it?

Thankfully, we were all raised with manners. You know the drill — stay on the right side of the sidewalk. Pass on the left. Don’t walk more than two people wide.

It’s common courtesy.

Is it not?

Let me back up.

I am a Latina, originally from Iowa — born and raised in Cedar Rapids. Iowa, as some of you may have guessed, is not particularly known for its diversity —the state’s racial composition is, after all, more than 90% white.

While my hometown has a population that is a whopping 87.98% white, I was fortunate enough to attend the most diverse school that my city had to offer. It prided itself on inclusion and diversity in every aspect that it could, and, for that, I am grateful.

Every day, passing through the halls of my high school, I was just as likely to see a face of color as I was to see the face of a white peer. There was a certain air of … understanding, I suppose you could call it. A mutual respect. We were all, for the most part, on the same team. We were one big melting pot of students from every background you could imagine.

Although Iowa State’s campus is diverse, it is absolutely a step backward from the climate that I was used to back home. Initially, I felt ... outnumbered.

One thing that immediately took me by surprise was most of my white peers’ unwillingness to gravitate to the correct side of the sidewalk when they approached me, walking in the opposing direction.

Common courtesy, right?

I mentioned this to my best friend — also a Latina.

“Oh, no, yeah, totally. Most of the time, they just sort of ... expect you to move,” she said.

It surprised me how quickly she understood my point. She attended a private school in a predominantly white area of Texas her entire life, so I suppose it made sense that it was a lesson she picked up on much earlier than I did.

I tested this theory often. From Carver to Agronomy. Curtiss to Pearson. Kildee to Parks.

Almost every time.

Was it something about the way I walked?

Did I not seem assertive enough?

Maybe it is impolite to not move out of the way of groups of people walking three-wide on a crowded sidewalk during peak passing times, and I’ve just had it backwards this entire time.

This was new to me. This concept of feeling undeserving of the space that I occupied.

I am very aware of my surroundings and the space that I fill at all times. That may be due to my gender, age, race, or possibly a mix of these factors. Or maybe it’s simply the way that I was raised.

Whatever the reason may be, it is something that affects most aspects of my day-to-day life. It absolutely baffles me how one could feel so entitled to claim and fill a space that is not their own — the wrong side of the sidewalk, in this case.

Since noticing, I have tried to find ways to reclaim this space.

I walk taller, shoulders back. I look through people, not at them. I walk with intention. I walk like this space is my own — because it is.

I will absolutely shoulder-check someone before I step foot off the sidewalk and into the grass. And I have. More than once.

“Do you like looking intimidating?” a friend asked me.

No, not really. “Looking intimidating” is not my goal. Reclaiming my right to occupy this particular space, however, is. And yeah, I do enjoy it.

I encourage you to pay attention next time you are walking across campus. Do people move out of your way?

If they do, why is that? If you are not a person of color, could it perhaps be the result of an inherent mutual respect between you and your fellow white peers that we as students of color do not have the privilege of receiving?

To my fellow students of color, I encourage you to pay attention to these sorts of things — these micro-aggressions. Whether we realize it or not, we are surrounded by them.

Above all — hold your head high, and walk with intention. You’ve earned your place among these sidewalks just as much as any of your white peers. Now it’s time to reclaim it.

_________

Maribels is a limelight reporter with the Iowa State Daily.

In My Words     Latinx, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences