I’ve put off writing this blog today because it’s something that I don’t like thinking about. But I’ve realized a concept about my job and our lives that I didn’t quite see coming at this age.
There comes a point where you cannot protect the people you love from things, no matter how hard you try. And I never truly realized that until I watched it happen right in front of my eyes while feeling completely helpless to reality.
The more I’ve gotten involved in college, the more people I find myself mentoring and caring for. When it comes to Orientation and caring about people in general, it’s all a part of the job. Don’t get me wrong, I have met so many incredible people that are absolutely worth knowing and loving as they are. I would never take that back.
But the thing about being an underrepresented minority student on Cal Poly’s campus is that you’re bound to get hurt a few times. Or a more than a few. And no one can change that because it’s the status quo of the system we’re in.
So what are we supposed to do when we cannot protect the ones we love?
I guess we do the only thing left: we support them.
As much as I would like to go for the proactive approach rather than the reactive one, there are times when we don’t have a choice. And of course, a lot of times the people we care about are strong and can handle themselves; that doesn’t mean we ignore our own worry in the process.
Supporting them in the way they need through the process and whatever comes next is the part that we can control.
So this week, that’s what I did.
Last weekend, we all witnessed an event that was hosted by one of our school’s organizations. Unfortunately, though traditionally it isn’t as bad as our experience was, there were several instances of cultural appropriation, ableist language, issues with upholding the gender binary, and a blatant lack of consideration for certain identities. Every one of my CCE Leaders in Training (LITs), those that I Facilitate, were very upset and offended by it.
And, I had to watch one of my LIT’s walk up to the front of the event to address the issue because the comments were not okay and he needed to stand up for it. It was like watching something catch on fire knowing that the only thing I had in my hands was oil–I can’t say I’ve ever felt more physically heartbroken and helpless than I did in that moment.
Not a single day has gone by this week that I haven’t checked in on every one of my LITs; not because I needed to, but because I don’t want them to feel like this school doesn’t have a space for them. That’s why we created CCE, the whole point of our community. With the blackface incidents last year and the clear discrimination of Latinx people that occurred with it, we had no one to fall back on but ourselves. It felt unsafe to walk around campus, even in the daylight.
I don’t want my LITs feeling that same way, but as of now, they kind of do. Because they feel unsupported by the program that they put a hell of a lot of volunteer time into. They deserve to have a safe space, to not need protection at all.
Because when they did need it, I couldn’t be that for them. All I could do was react later; help them keep going during it, work through it, and understand it once it happened. I only really supported them after and it broke my heart to have to. It still does.
And I wish there was more we could do sometimes. But with the way things are at this school and in this society, people are bound to break. It’s the second law of thermodynamics after all (from your friendly ex-chem major): Entropy of an open system will always move from order to disorder. This school is no different.
One day, I wouldn’t mind finding some equity, a space where we don’t deal with the weight of disorder only on the shoulders of certain communities. For now, I will have to settle into support.
Here’s to a very late Friday post. Thanks for listening, see you next week.