‘Ratchet,’ ‘exotic’ and six other ‘things you should not say to me’

By Janae Reinhardt, Guest Writer

Students gathered together in The Cave the evening of March 12 for a small interactive, discussion-based panel titled, “8 Things You Should Not Say to Me.”

The panel was a collaborative effort hosted by the Women’s Center and the Diversity Center and focused on a group of diverse Pacific Lutheran University female students and their negative social experiences related to their ethnicity.

The event welcomed all students regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation to participate and share their experiences.

Sitting down in a circle, the six student panelists and close to 15 attendants started by sharing their names and favorite ice cream flavors.

Next, junior Lauren Mendez, a panelist representing the Diversity Center, asked the other panelists to each share eight words or phrases commonly used subtly by others to negatively describe their race, sexuality or being.

Words such as ‘illegal,’ ‘exotic,’ ‘ratchet’ and ‘white trash’ were some of the initial slanders the panelists shared with the all-female group. Panelists and attendants discussed the prevalence of these uncomfortable labels on the PLU campus.

“I’ve experienced many of these negative terms far too many times at PLU,” senior Emma Harman said. “It’s just not OK. As students attending a diverse university, we should know better.”

The conversation turned to discussing some commonly used phrases the panelists found uncomfortable. “You’re not regular black,” and “Why aren’t you exotic?” are just a couple of phrases that panelists shared.

“These are ideas driven completely by blind assumption,” senior Jimena Mascaro, another panelist and Women’s Center representative, said.

The group discussed how various media outlets and even celebrities cause many of the misguided assumptions.

The term microaggression was introduced late in the discussion to help categorize the usage of these insensitive words or phrases.

The Taking Action Against Racism in the Media webpage suggests that microaggressions are best described as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color.”

At the close of the event, the panel thanked attendants for sharing the experience and encouraged the attendants and each other to be aware of these widely used microaggressions, and to take a stand in preventing them on the PLU campus and beyond.

“We wanted to give women an opportunity to share their experiences and really have a voice in letting women know that they are not alone in these experiences,” Mendez said. “I think we succeeded in that.” 🅼

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