Testimony of Racism


by Sofi Vargas, United World College Maastricht Almna
21st June, 2020


I’m not sure about how young I was the first time I heard that I was lucky because I wasn’t as dark as they thought I was going to be since both my parents are morenos (non-black dark skin).  I can’t count the amount of times I heard I was “tan negrita y tan bonita” (pretty to be “black”).

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I’m a Chilean student. I was born from the relationship of two brown Chileans and tracks in our family tree let us think that we have both Mapuche, and (sadly due to colonization) Spanish blood. 

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I learned from a very young age that “blacks” were dirty and smelly, but for my family members it was okay to call me “negrita”. I learned that white skin was beautiful and so was I because I wasn’t as dark as I could be. I remember locking myself in the bathroom, putting baby powder all over my body and looking at myself in the mirror at the age of 5, wondering what it would be like to be white. 

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I never got any of the main roles in the school plays because I simply “did not look like the characters”. I did not look like the little mermaid, or the virgin Mary but I did look like Baltazar (one of the Three kings), apparently. 

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I remember people asking me if my family was poor because of the colour of my skin. I remember people telling me that it will be okay because I would probably get lighter as I grew up. I remember flat ironing my hair to feel prettier. I remember dying my hair red even though they said it wouldn’t match my skin colour.

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I remember wondering if I was black, even though I knew I wasn’t. “Maybe I should feel black” I thought, everyone calls me like that anyway. 

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I remember all the times I wanted to speak up but I simply didn’t. I remember getting used to the high-key racist jokes, I remember being confused and crying, crying so much. 

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I remember when they told me to dress up nice so people wouldn’t think I was a thief, or poor. I remember when they said they were surprised by my English. “Very good for a Latina”. I remember all the times someone asked me to touch my skin in the Netherlands, all the looks I received every time someone would name any Latin American country in class. 

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I remember all the times weird Canadian ladies assumed I worked at my university cafeteria because of my skin colour, or the time someone stopped me in a bus stop to ask me what it felt like to be “so few of my people” in the small town. 

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I no longer want to be the person people feel comfortable asking about controversial topics because I’m not as dark. I no longer want to be the latinx person that is “surprisingly” good in a field of expertise. I no longer want to be called exotic, or pretty.

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I want you, white friends, to look me in the eyes when I talk to you. I want you to listen to me when I respond to your (ignorant) questions. I want you to stop acting surprised when I tell you I’ve never done/practiced one of your western things. I want you to understand that I’m simply not so interested in skiing. I want you to understand that your university classroom and your outdoor activities are not friendly for people like me. (If youwant to look into BIPOC presence in the outdoors, I recommend you read this https://www.melaninbasecamp.com/trip-reports/2019/7/7/mbc-guide-to-outdoor-allyship) 

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I no longer want to whitewash my existence for you to feel more comfortable. I no longer want to justify my experiences to you just because you are not able to empathize. 

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I want to stop feeling like I’m always the one that has something to say. I want to stop feeling that even though when I say it, you are not really listening. 

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I won’t calm down while you continue to perpetuate racist manners. 

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I will take it personally because it is personal to me. 

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I will no longer accept your white-western background as an excuse for no input in learning, but friend, I’m not here to teach you. Believe me, we BIPOC, have tried and done enough. 

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Illustration by Lilja Skieller

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